Monday, October 31, 2016

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen #4 (of 5)

   I'm a sucker for Doctor Who stories that team different incarnations of the Doctor, and that's exactly what you get in the Supremacy of the Cybermen mini-series.

     This issue doesn't feature a direct meeting of the Doctors, but follows adventures in different time eras as each one fights against different staggering menaces created by the robotic Cybermen.

    So you have the Ninth Doctor trying to save Rose and stop nanites from taking over his body; the Tenth Doctor is trying to save his companions from a skyscraper-sized Cyberman; the Eleventh Doctor finds himself a prisoner of Cyber-controlled dinosaurs; and the Twelfth Doctor must find a way to save the Time Lords and Gallifrey itself from the destruction of the universe.

   It makes for a fast-paced issue, and writers George Mann and Cavan Scott do a good job of capturing the voice of each version of the Doctor.

   The art by Ivan Rodriguez and Walter Geovanni is quite good, capturing the likenesses well and making the mayhem clear and easy to follow.

   This series has been a lot of fun and is building to a whopper of a conclusion. While the Doctor's on hiatus on TV, this is a great way to keep your Who-meter topped out. (Sorry, that was terrible.)

Grade: A-


Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Silver Surfer #7

   I get the feeling that the Silver Surfer's comic is flying under the radar for most fans.

   Which is a shame, because it's really a lot of fun.

   Perhaps it's Michael Allred's art, which I wouldn't categorize as a "fan favorite" style, but it does evoke the style and energy of the great Silver Age artists without copying any of them - it's fun!

   Storytellers Dan Slott and Allred have reinvented the Surfer, creating a new supporting cast member for him - a companion, in the Doctor Who sense - in Dawn Greenwood, a smart, likable and attractive Earth girl who joins the Surfer on his adventures.

   They both are enjoying their trips to strange worlds and places around the universe, but when Dawn asks for a more serious adventure, they visit the Casino Cosmico.

   There they discover the very real dangers of gambling - especially when you're risking things that have real value.

   It features the return of a certain well-known cosmic character - and has a clever plot twist at the end.

   Maybe I'm wrong and lots of people are reading this book - but it never seems to have much buzz, and that's a shame, because it's consistently one of Marvel's best comics.


Grade: A-


Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Flash #9

   Like most comic book fans, I enjoy the continuity side of comics.

   But the Rebirth version of The Flash may be a step too far.

   This issue brings together the "new" Wally West / Kid Flash and the recently-returned-to-continuity original Wally West / former Kid Flash.

   And just to up the ante, the original Wally now goes by The Flash. Just like Barry Allen.

   And both Wallys are grateful to Iris West, who was so good to them both.  (Where did she find time to raise them both - and how old is Iris, anyway?)

   There's a lot of discussion about Speed Forces and mysterious beings who stole years and stuff going on with the Titans and evil fathers and visions of the future.

   You know, I've been reading the adventures of the Flash virtually since Barry first suited up, and this stuff makes my head hurt - I assume it's almost impenetrable to new readers.

   But I can't totally slam this series because that final page, which presses all the right fanboys impulses, made me smile. Big time.

Grade: B


Friday, October 28, 2016

Captain America Steve Rogers #6

   Six months into the "new / returned" Steve Rogers version of Captain America, and the story continues to unfold about Steve's childhood (with his life now apparently altered by the Red Skull) and how he became a secret agent for Hydra.

   That's tricky enough to manage - and to the credit of the creative team, they also manage to make the story fit into the continuing Civil War II storyline, which promises some, shall we say, major changes for the Captain.

   The story is giving us some indications that the real Steve is buried in there somewhere - but the big problem with stories like this (ones that so completely change the back story of the character) is that it runs the risk of collapsing under its own weight.

   For example, under this new reality, Cap has always been an agent of Hydra. So he's managed to keep this a secret since his return to the modern world? And during his combat duty in World War II? And what about the times in the past that he fought the Red Skull - wouldn't those be null and void now?

   And on and on.

   This isn't a bad issue at all (though, like most of the Civil War stories, it's very heavy on standing around and talking). The art is terrific and the story is interesting, even though it makes it difficult to cheer for the title character.

    It's interesting and well done, but I can't really say I'm enjoying it.

Grade: B


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Skybourne #2

   Artist / writer Frank Cho recently ended his exclusive run at Marvel, and he explodes out of the gate at Boom Studios with the new series Skybourne, which is loaded with all kinds of goodness.

    The series focuses on the children of Lazarus (yes, that Lazarus) - they're immortal, invulnerable, incredibly strong and quite mysterious.

   After the shocking turn of events last issue resulting from the battle between one of the Skybourne siblings and a powerful wizard, the word goes out to bring in Thomas Skybourne - and we meet his allies and visit an amazing base loaded with mystic Easter eggs.

   It's a given that the art is terrific, and Cho seems to be having a lot of fun here, from monsters to dynamic action scenes and exotic locations.

   If you're a fan of Cho (isn't everyone?), then you don't want to miss this series. It's a heck of a lot of fun so far!

Grade: A


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Civil War II #6 (of 8)

   I think I've finally figured out why the Civli War II mini-series just isn't generating any heat.

   It's certainly trying. It's included the "death" (wink-wink) of one of Marvel's biggest Silver Age characters, plus some others. It has lots of fighting between heroes as they decide which side of this silly division they fall on.

   It also includes numerous guest stars and lots of action.

   So why does it seem to be getting a lukewarm reaction from the fans?

   I think it's because the series feels like it's padded out with dream sequences (which I, for one, hate).

   They're not exactly dream sequences - they're actually visions of the future by the Inhuman named Ulysses. It allows for some shocking images (such as the death of another icon that kicks off this issue), but it's a cheat, since that image is - so far - just imaginary.

   The issue focuses on a moral dilemma - namely, how do you punish someone for something they haven't done yet?

   It's an interesting thought, but as an 8-issue mini-series, it feels mighty thin and ultimately inconsequential.

Grade: B


New Comics Book Day

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

- Captain America #6 - Still a Hydra Agent.

- Civil War II #6 - What to do about Spider-Man?

- Flash #9 - Two Kid Flashes!

- Future Quest #6 - Meet the Impossibles!

- Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #7 - Final fight with Sinestro.

- Guardians of the Galaxy #13 - Civil War.

- Totally Awesome Hulk #11 - Fighting the Black Panther.

- Saga #39 - Love and death.

- Silver Surfer #7 - Life's a gamble.

- Skybourne #2 - Death of an immortal.

   And I received review copies of:

- Bloodshot USA #1

- Dark Souls #3 

- Doctor Who 10th Year Two #15

- Doctor Who 11th Year Two #14

- Doctor Who The Long Con

- Generation Zero #3

- Kim and Kim #4

- Mycroft #3 

- Penny Dreadful #3

- The Skeptics #1

- Vikings Uprising #2

   And that's it!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Guest Review: Big Trouble In Little China / Escape From New York #1

   Two action heroes meet up in a new comic book mini-series - and here with a Guest Review of that title is Glen Davis

   John Carpenter and Kurt Russell were a regular cinematic dynamic duo for several years, collaborating on well-remembered films. 

   Boom! Studios is mashing two of them together in a fun mini-series.

   Jack Burton from Big Trouble In Little China is driving his rig through Texas shortly after the events in the movie. He drives through a dimensional portal invoked by Wang, his friend in the movie, and arrives in an alternate 2001, the post-apocalyptic world of Escape From New York.

   Of course, he's mistaken for Snake Plissken, who tracks him down to kill him for taking Snake's name. Plissken is the man that Wang actually tried to summon. 

   After the initial confrontation, some handy exposition explains what the heck is going on.

   A fairly good beginning, and a plausible way to get two very different concepts together. Not bad.

Grade:  B 


Monday, October 24, 2016

Black Widow #7

   The Black Widow is a character who - outside of Marvel's movies - has rarely realized her potential.

   She's been many things in her long career at Marvel - villain, spy, super-hero - but her past has remained largely wrapped in mystery.

   So this series is shining a light on some of those dark corners, as we meet some of the people behind her training as a child - and see what that process of brainwashing and brutality did to her.

   It's a dark, deadly story, and it shows just what Natasha has overcome to become a hero (at least we think she's a hero).

   It's terrific work as always by co-writer / artist Chris Samnee and co-writer Mark Waid, two of the best in the business.

   It's not a happy, upbeat story - but it is an important one, as the Widow faces a deadly race to the finish.

   You really should be buying this series.

Grade: A


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Justice League #7

   There are comics that I really want to like because, well, I've always liked them.

   The Avengers, the Fantastic Four (where are you?), Green Lantern and the Flash are among the many titles on my list - and the Justice League is near the top of the list.

   Which is why it's annoying that I've been so disappointed with the latest (Rebirth) version of the team.

   It works on paper - the series is written by Bryan Hitch, who has been involved in terrific stories in the past. This story arc is drawn by Jesus Merino and Andy Owens, and it's strong, solid work.

    But the story just leaves me cold.

   It focuses on a strange attack by a mysterious creature that feeds on (or causes) intense fear. As a result, the members of the League are acting out of character - threatening each other, collapsing in fear, attacking a military base.

   Just why they're doing this is unclear, and it's frankly annoying to see heroes all acting in unheroic ways.

   I'm not quite ready to give up on this series yet - but I don't know how much longer I'll be able to say that.

Grade: B-


Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Mighty Thor #12

   For this issue, The Mighty Thor pays a visit to a library.

   To be fair, it's not just any library - it's the Hall of the All-Knowing, the library of the gods. (Admit it, you'd like to have access to it, too.)

   She's there at the urging of the hammer Mjolnir, which has been behaving oddly - and exhibiting intelligence.

   So she looks for answers, and finds some (though not all, of course). It's a mystery that stretches back into the history of Asgard and battles decided by the power of Odin.

   The story by Jason Aaron is that most dreaded of creatures - a retcon - but it's not terribly intrusive and mostly sticks to corners that have been untouched (though it seems to ignore stories that depicted Odin using Mjolnir in battle - when Thor was just a boy).

   The art chores are divided between Russell Dauterman and Frazer Irving, as they divide the modern-day story from the historic action. It's strong, vibrant work all around.

   This series continues to be surprising and entertaining - but I do miss the real Thor, and it's frustrating that we still don't know what caused him to be "unworthy." Perhaps his promised new series will clue us in.

Grade: B+


Friday, October 21, 2016

Death of X #2 (of 4)

   As the Death of X series continues to set up the upcoming conflict between the X-Men and the Inhumans, we can pause to reflect on the nature of Marvel's "hero vs. hero" tradition.

   It goes back a long way - in fact, almost every time two Marvel heroes first met in the Silver Age, they fought.

   Usually it was because of a misunderstanding (Iron Man vs. Sub-Mariner), or jealousy (Spider-Man vs. the Human Torch), a test (Fantastic Four vs. the Black Panther), or the plot of a villain (Captain America vs. Iron Man) - but the real reason for the fight was because it was fun.

   And that's why the tradition continues, right into last summer's hit movie. But for it to work, there has to be an acceptable reason for the fight.

   And so far, this series has managed to set up a good motivation.

   The Inhumans released the Terrigen Mist into the Earth's atmosphere, and now a cloud sweeps around the planet, releasing the inner potential of people with the Inhuman gene.

   But that mist is having a devastating effect on mutants - and the X-Men are demanding that the Inhumans do something about it. Will they cooperate - or will conflict result?

   Take a wild guess, true believer!

   But the potential for an entertaining story is strong. We'll see if it delivers.

Grade: A-


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dark Knight III - The Master Race #6 (of 8)

   The Master Race threatening the Earth (and Gotham City in particular) seems unbeatable - it's an army of super-powered fanatics from Kandor (the bottle city from Krypton).

   Now grown to normal size, they've rained destruction across the globe, and not even Superman can stand against them.

   But Batman, of course, has a plan to level the field.

   This issue is loaded with intense confrontations, delightfully improbably battles and some gruesome bits of business.

   It also has a helluva cliffhanger ending - one that hearkens back to another classic Batman moment.

   I'm still not quite sold on the story here - I like Batman better when he's dealing with more street-level menaces, rather than super-powered extravaganzas - but there's plenty of time to change my mind.

   With terrific art and powerful writing - and I love those mini-comics inside each issue - this is a series you should not miss.

Grade: A-


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #1

   Here's a comic that could be sold by the title alone: Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye.

 But I didn't buy it for the title - I picked it up because Cave Carson was the star of the first "hero" comic I remember reading (a story I told in this post).

   Cave's adventures were limited back in the '60s, but just seeing the title of this new series jabbed me right in my nostalgia zone (and that tickles, I can tell you).

   This issue is set under the Young Animal imprint DC has started under Gerard Way's guidance, and so far, so good.

    This is an odd issue, with moments of "normal DC" events (as Cave checks in with the company that uses his "Mighty Mole Machine" technology to seek out rare elements) - and then there are the "weird DC" events, as we discover Cave's malfunctioning eye, and he's confronted by a strange figure from his past.

   There's a tragic element throughout, as Cave learns to deal with loss and tries to connect with his grown daughter.

   There are also a couple of terrific cameos that will delight long-time readers.

   It's all strange and odd and not much at all like that first adventure in 1960 - but it's also mysterious and fascinating and I'm totally hooked.

   Can't wait for the next issue!

Grade: A-



New Comics Day

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

- Archie #13 - Welcome Cheryl Blossom!

- Astro City #40 - The trial of a lifetime!

- Black Widow #7 - No more secrets!

- Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #1 - A new take on a classic hero.

- Dark Knight III Master Race #6 (of 8) - War in Gotham!

- Death of X #2 (of 4) - The Inhumans are killing the mutants. Or are they?

- Doctor Strange #13 - Lost and found?

- Justice League #7 - Fight the fear.

- Powers #7 - Flashback time!

- Mighty Thor #12 - The secret origin of Mjolnir!

- Usagi Yojimbo #158 - A strange journey.

- All New X-Men #14 - Game on!

   And I received review copies of:

Assassins Creed Locus #2 (OF 4) 

Dishonored #4 (OF 4) 

Doctor Who 10TH YEAR TWO

- Doctor Who 12TH YEAR TWO

- Doctor Who 3RD #2 (OF 5) 

- Doctor Who Supremacy of the Cybermen #4 (OF 5)

Faith #4

- Ninjak #20

- Norman #5

Penny Dreadful #5 (OF 5) 

Samurai Brothers in Arms #2 (OF 6) 

Sherlock A Study in Pink #5 (OF 6) 

Torchwood #2 

   And that's it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Peepland #1

   This is the first of the line of Hard Case Crime comics I've seen, but if Peepland is any indication, they're definitely angling for stories about the grimy underbelly of society.

   Set in 1986, this series, which is definitely just for adults, follows a stripper / sex worker named Roxy who is working in a Peep Show (performing salacious acts while the customer watches).

   A slimy acquaintance named Dirty Dick (I am not making this up) is being pursued by some toughs, and his escape attempt leads him through the Peep Show, where he hides a VHS tape.

   The secret hidden on the tape throws Roxy and her friends into a mystery - a deadly one.

   The story is written by Christa Faust and Gary Philips, and it evokes a grim hardboiled crime story - one that's all too realistic and unsavory.

   I like the art by Andrea Camerini - it's vivid and real, with a surprising use of depth and great characters.

   It's well crafted but not for the faint of heart - and certainly not for kids.

Grade: B+


Monday, October 17, 2016

Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #12

   In this series, the Eternal Warrior has gone to Hell.


   (It's no wonder he's feeling so much wrath.)

   As recent issues have disclosed, despite his title it is possible for Gilad Anni-Padda to die.

   When he does, he finds himself in "heaven" (sorta kinda), reunited with his wife and children. Why would he ever leave?

   But his sense of duty leads him to return to the land of the living, but it's not an easy thing to manage - because first he must fight his way past an army of demons in Hell, including the mountainous monster named Humongous.

   But for the first time, the parameters of the battle have changed, making it a fight Gilad can't win.

   That's because his oldest son Kalam has followed Gilad and been captured by the demons, who use him as a bargaining chip.

   So for Gilad, apparently surrender the only option.

   This series has been a bit on the grim and gritty side, but it also has heart, courage and a smart hero. Add in sharp scripts by Robert Venditti and excellent, vivid (and often epic) artwork by Robert Gill, and you have a powerful story to enjoy.

Grade: A-


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Warhammer 40,000: Will of Iron #1 (of 4)

   I know almost nothing about Warhammer 40,000.

   Here's what I know: it's a really popular game, it's science fiction-based, and the visuals are stunning.

   I probably wouldn't know anything about it if not for a young man I interviewed many years ago who was a salesman for the company that marketed the game, and he had a case filled with amazing figures (statues?) from the series that were exquisitely painted and loaded with amazing detail.

   So like I said: I know nothing.

   So I approach this series (subtitled Will of Iron) as a blank slate - and while I obviously have a steep learning curve ahead of me, I have to admit I enjoyed this issue.

   As near as I can tell, the story follows a conflict between at least three different factions fighting over a newly-revealed planet.

   The attack gives new meaning to "shock and awe," as they launch giant machines that crash to the planet's surface, covered in flames. There they spit out armored legions that attack the strange animal-like creatures that live there.

   Why is all this happening? Well, I haven't sorted that out yet - but the visuals are stunning and I trust that the reasons behind the conflict will become more clear as the story rolls along.

   The art by Tazio Bettin is terrific - powerful and detailed, with impressive alien vistas and character designs.

   The story by George Mann covers a lot of ground and throws quite a bit of info at the reader, but keeps things relatively clear for those new, clueless readers.

   Like me.

Grade: A-



Saturday, October 15, 2016

Chimera Brigade #1

   If you're mourning the fact that stories featuring the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen are only published sporadically, this series might be a good way to scratch that itch.

   The Chimera Brigade is set in 1938 (though storylines stretch back into World War I). It's a different version of that time, as familiar (though renamed) charters populate the story.

   Some are historical in nature (including Marie Curie's daughter), other are pulp-based (Doc Savage and the Shadow), and some are horror derived (including a bug-based character) and some are right out of comic books (look for a Man who looks like he might be made of Steel).

   The comic by writers Serge Lehmen and Fabrice Colin and artist  Gess is actually a reprint of a foreign edition (originally published as La Brigade Chimerique).

   It's a lot of fun (if a bit obtuse in places - or maybe I'm the obtuse one), and it sets up a fast-approaching conflict by powered individuals on a continental stage.

   I enjoyed this issue, a pseudo-historical adventure crossed with a small army of fictional characters. It works as a story and as a collection of Easter Eggs.

Grade: A-


Friday, October 14, 2016

All-Star Batman #3

   It took me three issues, but I finally figured out why the All-Star Batman series by Scott Snyder and John Romita, Jr., works so well.

   It's because it's a Marvel Comic.

   Well, it says "DC" on the cover, but it's a fast-paced, action-packed thrill ride from start to finish.

   (The traditional idea is that DC is all about plot and story twists, while Marvel is about action, humor and character. I realize this isn't always the case.)

   The story (such as it is) has Batman trying to escort Two-Face out of Gotham City - but that villain has blackmailed the entire city to stop the Dark Knight, meaning he must fight every step of the way against some of his most deadly villains.

   So it's all about the action, and certainly that's something that Romita (and inker Danny Miki) do extremely well.

   The idea behind the story is a little shaky, and the series is a bit on the brutal side, but it's a heck of a lot of fun - highly recommended!

Grade: A-



Thursday, October 13, 2016

Doom Patrol #2

   The Doom Patrol is back as part of DC's new Young Animal line, and it's a tall challenge for any writer.

   That's because the team has two key periods that are imprinted with long-time readers, and the new series has to measure up against those.

    The first series in the original run appeared in 1963, and the surprisingly dark adventure series was expertly crafted by writer Arnold Drake and artist Bruno Premiani.

   In 1989 Grant Morrison re-imagined the team with artist Richard Case, and it was a brilliant crazy-quilt of abstract concepts and surreal threats.

   So against that we have the new version of the team by writer Gerard Way and artist Nick Derington - and it's managing to walk that tightrope between the two.

   We're seeing elements of the original series (as that Mike Allred cover illustrates) and characters from the Morrison version. 

   The characters and events also seem to have a tenuous connection with reality, and the reader may wonder what is real and what isn't.

   (And how I love the one-page bits with the Chief, Niles Caulder.)

   So far, I'm enjoying this a lot - it's a great mix of terrific characters, humor and mystery, and I can't wait to see where it goes next.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Great Lakes Avengers #1

   Here's a group that springs from relative obscurity every now and then to take another shot at "regular series" status.

   The Great Lakes Avengers first appeared in the pages of West Coast Avengers, created by writer/artist John Byrne as (I assume) a lighthearted jab at the idea of having Avengers teams all over the country (surely the Orlando Avengers would be a popular gig).

   The team always reminded me of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, in that the team is built of heroes with very specific powers - like Doorman, who serves as a living teleporter, taking the team to any location, or Flatman, who can stretch when he becomes a two-dimensional being.

   A surprising legal decision brings the moribund team to life, and it's a bit of a trick to put the band back together.

   I liked this issue, but it just brings a smile, not a belly laugh.

   The characters are interesting, the art is nice, and the humor is lightly applied - not a bad start, but not one to command your attention.

Grade: B



New Comics Day

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

- All Star Batman #3 - Road warriors!

- Daredevil #12 - The art of murder.

- Doom Patrol #2 - Where is Larry Trainor?

- Flash #8 - Meet Kid Flash!

- Great Lakes Avengers #1 - An unlikely team!

- Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #6 - Green vs. Yellow!

- Superwoman #3 -  Who is Ultrawoman?

- Wonder Woman #8 - The origin of the Cheetah.

   And I received review copies of:

- Britannia #2

- Chimera Brigade #1 

- Dark Soils Legends of the Flame #2

- Hard Case Crime Peepland #1

- Norman #5 

- Rivers of London Black Mould #1

- Warhammer 40000 Will of Iron #1

- Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #12

   And that's it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Classics - The Avengers #133, 134 and 135

   There have been quite a few excellent writers who worked on The Avengers over the years, and it's not easy to name a favorite.

   Certainly Stan Lee got the team off to a great start, and Roy Thomas built an epic run after that. Over the years we've enjoyed tremendous work by Roger Stern, Kurt Busiek, Brian Michael Bendis and many others.

   But if you forced me to choose a favorite writer on the series, I'd have to go with the guy who followed Thomas: Steve Englehart.

   If Stan introduced continuity to superhero comics and Thomas refined it, it was Englehart who used it to build epic tales that took fans into new territory, linked up disparate threads and explained long-held mysteries about the Marvel Universe.

   One of the best examples can be found in issue #133, 134 and 135. The Avengers defeated (and aided) Immortus, the master of limbo, and as recompense, he offers to shed light on the mystery of the origin of Mantis, the martial artist (created by Englehart). The answer took the team far into the past on a tour of the origins of the enmity between the Kree and Skrull alien races, the creation of the Blue Area on the Moon (complete with Earth-like atmosphere), and the existence of a plant-based life form.

   At the same time, the Vision traveled back in time to learn about his link with the original (android) Human Torch from the Golden Age, and the connection to his evil creator, Ultron.

   It was an intelligent, involved and perfectly-constructed tale that wove through three issues and left characters changed forever. By tying together so many different story threads, it actually made the Marvel continuity stronger.

   It was a remarkable work, wonderfully illustrated by Sal Buscema and Joe Staton. (It's also interesting to note that the Avengers do nothing in this series - except watch history unfold.)

   The writing had far-reaching effects, as it inspired other writers (including some of those mentioned above) to try their hand at linking together continuity threads to craft stories of their own.

   But no one was better at it than Englehart.

Grade: A+



Monday, October 10, 2016

Supergirl - TV Review (Season 2)

   The Fall TV Season has arrived, and the CW has (wisely) picked up the Supergirl TV series to add to its lineup, which includes Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.

   And they've added something new this year: the world's most famous superhero.

   Superman "appeared" in the first season, but only at a distance (via text or literally so far away that you couldn't see him). That's reportedly because Man of Steel director Zach Snyder wanted to reserve his star for the big screen.

   But calmer heads have prevailed, and since there are different actors playing the TV Flash and the movie Flash, why not do likewise with the other heroes?

   So Tyler Hoechlin has stepped into the big red boots, and guess what? 

   He's terrific!

   That's because, unlike the movies that handcuff the amazing Henry Cavill into a grim, near-humorless character, Hoechlin is allowed to show actual personality - he smiles, he's playful, a good friend, a great cousin, a talented and thoughtful reporter - but he also shows a determined side. He's no pushover, showing a flinty edge with J'onn J'onzz, and fighting fiercely to protect the innocent. 

   In a modern flurry of grim and gritty heroes, he's a literal breath of fresh air. It's a delight to see the real Superman again.

   But it's not his show, and while we enjoy watching him, this is Supergirl's show, and Melissa Benoist is the star. 

   And how she lights up the screen! It's not just her beauty at work - she channels an inner sweetness, edged with a determination to help others and do the right thing. 

   But you just can't take your eyes off her, whether she's chasing a plummeting space shuttle or trying on different dresses at super-speed before a date.

   It's a tribute to her performance (and her star power) that she's never overwhelmed or run off the screen by her high-profile "cousin."

   The story... well, after a rousing start it slips into a standard "bad guy out for revenge" story - but the ending holds the promise of the return of a classic villain.

   There are some new sets and the return of the excellent supporting cast, so it looks like the new network home - and the promise of more super-crossovers - will make for a strong second season for the Girl of Steel!

Grade: A-


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Jessica Jones #1

   Given the success of the NetFlix mini-series, it's surprising that Marvel is only now getting around to reviving the series starring former superhero-turned-private-detective Jessica Jones.

   The last time we saw her, Jessica was in a good place - married to Luke Cage, they had a baby and were active members of the New Avengers.

   But Jessica isn't the kind of character who manages "being happy" well - so as this series begins, she's in all kinds of trouble (though it's not clear exactly what is going on).

   The first issue reunites the original creative team - writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos - and they pick up right where they left off, serving up an adult, street-level, grime-and-all portrait of a woman struggling to survive despite (possibly) sinister forces gathered against her.

   Oh, and she also gets hired for some detective work - and runs into some old friends.

   It's a great start for the new series, and it really feels like old times. The original series was dark and edgy (like the TV show), and it's right back there again.

Grade: A


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Death of Hawkman #1

   I almost passed on Death of Hawkman, because I'm so tired of death in comics (it's a weekly thing these days - heck, I bought two comics this week with the word "Death" in the title).

   But then I saw that it not only included Hawkman, one of my all-time favorite DC heroes (though he hasn't resembled his Silver Age self in a long time), but it also featured Adam Strange, who is my all-time favorite Silver Age DC hero.

   What's funny about the issue is - there's very little Hawkman content here.

   The story picks up in the middle of a fight, as Hawkman struggles to recover from several terrible wounds (as usual). That takes us up to page 4 - and from there on, the story is a flashback for Adam Strange.

   The story does a fair job of recapturing the essence of the "real" Adam's story (the Silver Age version) - he's an ordinary man who is teleported to the pant Rann, where he uses his wits to save the day and become the planet's hero.

    The only change (other than an updating of his costume) is that he catches the Zeta (teleportation) Beam in America - but Alpha Centauri, Rann's home star, is only visible in Earth's southern hemisphere. (I'm willing to give them a pass on this.)

   The story is just getting started here, and so far, I'm hooked. Here's hoping the title star gets more time in the spotlight next issue.

   (I'm hopeful that they won't actually kill Hawkman - but I do hope they "fix" him. Silver Age fans understand.)

Grade: A-


Friday, October 7, 2016

Death of X #1 (of 4)

   The fact of the matter is, I'm almost completely out of touch with both the X-Men franchise and the Inhumans comics - and this book is all about a rapidly-approaching war between the two.

   (I do read All-New X-Men, but that's it - and it's only marginally connected to the other mutant books.)

   The first issue of the Death of X mini-series checks in with both "families" - we see a small team of X-Men investigating a call for help from Muir Island, and a small team of Inhumans watching as the cloud of Terrigen Mist sweeps across the city of Matsumoto in Japan.

   That mist has been sweeping across the world, transforming regular humans (the few who carry Inhuman DNA) into new powered Inhumans - but the mist has a completely different effect on mutants.

   There are elements to the story that mystify me. For example, the X-Men part of the story takes place "One Year Ago" - and the Inhuman part is set in the modern day. I have no idea why, but I trust that'll be cleared up in future issues.

   In the meantime, we have some excellent artwork by Aaron Kuder and what promises to be an interesting story by Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule.

   But I'm not crazy about killing characters, and we see some of that already - and the promise of much more.

   So will this revitalize the X-Men franchise, and bring the Inhuman franchise along for the ride (as Marvel no doubt hopes)?

   We'll see.

Grade: A-


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Champions #1

   Team books are pretty common on the comic book landscape, so it's always nice when a really good one turns up - and that's what you get with the Champions!

   Proving that something good can come out of Civil War II, this issue catches us up on the young members of the All-New, All-Different Avengers - Nova, Spider-Man (Miles Morales) and Ms. Marvel!

   They've parted ways with their former team - but they still want to make a difference in the world, so they seek out other young heroes and set out to make their mark.

   One reason this book succeeds is because of its attitude - it's a hopeful, upbeat series about heroes who (stand by for a shock) try to do the right thing and help people!

   Along the way they tackle bad guys (including an especially bad egg here) and hot topics - and the comments that wrap up their first adventure should be the bylaws for every hero team.

   Kudos to writer Mark Waid and artists Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba for crafting a terrific first chapter in what will hopefully be a long run for this new incarnation of the Champions!

Grade: A


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Archie Meets the Ramones #1 (One-shot)

   Sometimes you spot a comic book and say to yourself, "No way."

   That was my reaction when I saw the cover of Archie Meets the Ramones.

   Having a meeting between the clean-cut kids from Riverdale and the punk rock icons has to be an inspired bit of lunacy.

   It's a trick for the two bands to meet, of course, considering that four Ramone "brothers" all had passed away by 2014.

   But the two collide thanks to a bit of magical intervention, and the story actually manages to be a bit of fun.

   It offers up the Ramones as a new inspiration for Archie and his friends (if somewhat inadvertently), and the story is something of a primer for the rock scene in the '70s.

   The story by Alex Segura and Matthew Rosenberg is a love letter to the Ramones, as today's readers learn about the classic band along with the (mostly clueless) Archies.

   The art by Gisele Lagace is crisp and expressive - not as grubby as you might expect for a rock band, but still lots of fun.

   And that's the goal here - to have fun with the meeting of opposites on the bandwidth of musical talents, as we see the contrast between one of the all-time great rock bands (though one that never enjoyed huge success on the charts) and a made-up band that somehow churned out one of the biggest hits of all time - despite the fact that they really didn't exist at all.

   (And thankfully, there's no mention of that song - "Sugar, Sugar.")

 Grade: A-



New Comics Day

   Big day for comics! Here's what I picked up at the shop today:

- Archie Meets the Ramones #1 - How could I resist?

- Champions #1 - The new team in town!

- Death of Hawkman #1 - (Sigh) More death. But hey, there's Adam Strange!

- Death of X #1 - Still more death. Will mutants survive?

- Doctor Strange #12 - An old enemy returns.

- Future Quest #5 - It's Impossible!

- Invincible Iron Man #14 - A serious debate.

- Jessica Jones #1 - Back in business.

- Justice League #6 - Living in a state of fear.

- Paper Girls #10 - Reunioin!

- Ragnarok #10 - To the rescue!

- Shade the Changing Girl #1 - Crazy, man.

- The Shadow: Death of Margo Lane #5 (of 5) - The foe he can't defeat.

- Wynonna Earp #8 - A family man.

   And I received review copies of:

- A&A #8 

- Assassins Creed #12
- Black #1
- Bloodshot Reborn #18
- Doctor Who 9th #6
- Hard Case Crome Triggerman #1

And that's it!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Classic Comics - The Avengers #71

   Last week we talked about Avengers #70 (from 1969), which introduced the JLA-based Squadron Sinister.

   One month after that issue, writer Roy Thomas created another "new" super-team to fight the Avengers (who were caught up in a cosmic game between the Grandmaster and Kang the Conquerer) - and it was a team that Thomas would return to six years later.

   The rules of the game were simple - the Avengers must fight and win to save the Earth. The cosmically-powered Grandmaster has promised Kang the power of life and death, which he plans to use to revive the love of his life, the comatose Ravonna.

    So the Black Panther, Yellowjacket and the Vision find themselves transported to Nazi-occupied Paris in 1941 - and they're quickly confronted by the most powerful heroes from that time - Captain America, Namor and the (android) Human Torch!

   Six years later the stories of their World War II adventures would be told in the pages of The Invaders (also written by Thomas), but in 1969 the only historical team-up of those characters happened in the All-Winners Squad - a team comic printed after the war was over.

   So with this issue Thomas (with artists Sal Buscema and Sam Grainger) were laying the continuity-rich groundwork for that series. (Thomas even revisited this story in The Invaders, telling it from the other side of the conflict - and explaining why Cap was using his original triangular shield, instead of the circular one.)

   It's a terrific action sequence, and it's just the setup for the final confrontation with Kang  and the Grandmaster - a battle that has a real shock and a special guest star!

   And another treat on the last page - a full page splash of the Avengers posing heroically - maybe the first such splash incorporated into the pages of a story (as opposed to a special pin-up)!

   (We'll even forgive the fact that the Wasp has somehow changed costumes instantly for that final page!)

   It's a great wrap-up to a classic story that set up elements that would be revisited over and over in the Marvel universe - a real classic!

Grade: A



Monday, October 3, 2016

Saga #38

   Look, do I really have to write this review?

   I mean, it's Saga.

   In other words, one of the best comics being published right now.

   It's an expansive story by Brian K. Vaughn that tells the life story of a girl born from parents of different, warring races. It's all about life and love and adventure and death and despair and delight.

   It has humor and action and more surprises than any other comic in memory.

   The art by Fiona Staples is inspired and original, evoking emotional responses, shock and delight from the most stout reader.

   Here again we find love and hope and - just when you get comfortable - a punch to the gut.

   (A reminder that it's really just for adults, because of mature themes and violence. )

   What more can I say? Gah, just buy it and read it already!

Grade: A


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Totally Awesome Hulk #10

   You get the sense that Marvel is having trouble.

   And I think the main problem is that they keep getting in the way of their own stories.

   Today's example is Totally Awesome Hulk, which has given Bruce Banner a break from the curse of being the Hulk, and transferred the title (and the green tint) to the young genius Amadeus Cho.

   The series offered a fresh take on the Hulk - a light-hearted, smartly-written, action-oriented look, courtesy of writer Greg Pak, with powerful art, courtesy of Mahmud Asrar.

   But with the last couple of issues, the focus has been thrown aside to deal with the effects from Civil War II - a dark story that runs counter to the feel of this series.

   On the plus side, the issue features a battle between the Hulk and the new, improved Black Panther - and it's not as one-sided as you might expect.

   Now comes word that the "Hulk" comic will soon be turned over to a savage version of She-Hulk, which begs the question: what about the Amadeus version? What about Banner - how long until he's revived? (Come on, you know he'll be revived eventually, right?)

   I've been enjoying this series and would hate to see it all tossed as Marvel throws another idea against the wall to see if it sticks.

   Or here's an idea: the original Hulk is a great character. How about telling stories about him?

Grade: B




Saturday, October 1, 2016

Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes #1

   The caveat up front: I have never been a fan of Planet of the Apes. If you're a fan, good for you - but for me, the original film just felt like an "OK" episode of Twilight Zone.

   On the other hand, I am a huge fan of Tarzan - and I have to admit that the idea of the two concepts colliding is interesting and worth a look.

   I assumed the story would find Tarzan traveling to the alternate reality of the Planet of the Apes - after all, quite a few of his adventures (both by Edgar Rice Burroughs and by other hands) have involved him traveling to different worlds. (I believe someone postulated that Tarzan was a rarity in that he could find doorways to other realities, but I don't remember the source of that concept.)

   Instead, we're seeing a version of Tarzan's world that springs from the third Planet of the Apes film (I think), that sent scientist Dr. Zira and her husband back in time to the (then) present day.

   Instead of the present, they instead arrive in Africa at the end of the 19th Century, where they settle among the Great Apes - and they adopt Tarzan and raise him as a brother to their own son.

   The issue includes snippets of scenes that take place in other times, and it's all a bit confusing.

   It's a natural tie to link up the Lord of the Apes with the Planet thereof - but it's hard to see where it all goes from here.

   The art is good but the story is a bit of a mush - hopefully future issues will clear things up.

Grade: B