Thursday, November 30, 2017

New Talent Showcase 2017

   I'm glad to see this revival of the New Talent Showcase concept, which gives new and upcoming creators a shot at the big time.

   Unfortunately, the format only allows a short moment at best - they get 10 pages, which isn't a lot of room to build up any kind of narrative (though most stories manage to cover the basics of good storytelling, with a beginning, middle and end - sort of).

   So it ends up being more of an artists showcase, and everyone represented here has the talent to move on to a book of his or her own.

   The two artists who jumped out at me were Matt Merhoff, who provides a moody and finely-crafted adventure with Poison Ivy, and Sam Lotfi's surreal and dynamic take on Dr. Fate.

   I'd love to see more of this sort of thing, but the price is an obstacle - $7.99 is a lot for new talents - and it would be nice to give the writers and artists some more pages to work with - to let them spread their wings more.

Grade: B+



Wednesday, November 29, 2017

New Comics Day

   Slim pickings this week! I was tempted to pick up nothing (which would probably have been the first time that had ever happened).

   But I grabbed a few for the fun of it - here's what I picked up at the comics shop today:

MYSTIK U #1 (OF 3) - Where did Zatanna go to school?

NEW TALENT SHOWCASE 2017 #1 - New creators in the spotlight!

- STAR WARS ADVENTURES #4 - Luke and Leia visit a familiar planet.

   And I received these review copies:

CAPTAIN KRONOS #3 An army of vampires with no weaknesses? (Oh, and this issue features a "pull" quote from this blog on the cover - how cool is that?)

DOCTOR WHO 11TH YEAR THREE #12 Born to be a weapon?

ETERNITY #2 - Divine intervention!

LOLA XOXO VOL 2 #5 - Lola's plan for allies goes badly!

MEDISIN #6 - The final battle!

MIRACULOUS #17 PIXELATOR Tracking a pop star!

QUARRYS WAR #1 Hard nosed crime from Max Allen Collins!

VAMPBLADE SEASON TWO #9 Battling vampiric parasites!

WAR MOTHER #4 - Atomic Assault!

   And that's it!

Avengers: Infinity War: Movie Trailer

   Finally, the anxiously-awaited trailer for Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War has been released, and Hokey Smokes, does it look impressive.

    Check it out:

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Classic Comics - Superman #207

   This is a comic that makes me feel old.

   I actually picked it up just recently - but when it was first published in 1969, your pal Chuck was a mere 13 years old.

   As the cover reveals, the issue celebrates the Superman's 30th anniversary (since his first appearance in Action Comics was launched in 1938) - which means next year he'll celebrate his 80th year in comics!

   And I've been around for... well, a lot more of those years than I'd like to admit!

   Like I said - old.

   This is actually a pretty weak attempt by DC to gin top some interest in the Man of Steel. The issue is labeled an 80 Page Giant, and there are indeed 80 pages in the comic - if you include the ads.

   Of course, for readers in the late '60s, these annuals were one of the few ways to catch up on classic stories - and they only cost a quarter.

   But the stories in this issue certainly don't represent the best from the previous years. It includes yet another story of an alternate Superman, an adventure that somehow includes adult, teen and infant Supermen, an amorous Amazon (get your mind out of the gutter!), the mystery of a new uniform, and the "imaginary" adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Superman!

   The stories are ok, but haven't aged as well as Superman. The art is nice, though.

   So as we lumber into Supers' 80th year, we can enjoy the fact that he is, in many ways, as fresh as he was on the day he started. Wish we could all say that!

Grade: B-


Monday, November 27, 2017

Dollface #11

   Well, this is an unusual comic (to put it mildly).

   Dollface is the story of a 17th Century woman - a witch hunter - who is transported to the present where she takes up residence in an artificial / android body - making her a living doll.

   The combination of sorcery and computer technology make her a unique creature of power - and she uses her abilities to track down and destroy evil witches.

   This issue finds her facing a powerful witch - one that threatens her friend's life. But are they really enemies?

   The story is by Dan Mendoza and Bryan Seaton, with art by Zoe Stanley and Danielle Gransaul, and it's a mix of a simplified animation style and an (almost) underground comic effect, with lots of brutality on display.

   The series is kind of an odd combination of titillation (with plenty of alternate covers featuring the title character in various levels of torn clothing / near nudity). The comic also features plenty of gory violence, so this is definitely not a comic for children.

   This definitely isn't aimed at me, but (as Don Thompson always said), if you like this sort of thing, here it is.

Grade: B-


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Kamandi Challenge #11 (of 12)

   As Kamandi Challenge continues to rumble along, we can reflect on the oddness of it.

   One of Jack Kirby's lesser creations, the Last Boy of Earth roamed a dystopian Earth where animals were both intelligent and anthropomorphic, forming their own cities and cultures.

   Kirby, of course, could make anything entertaining (heck, he made Jimmy Olsen worth reading), so we were treated to innumerable menaces of all shapes and sizes as Kamandi fought for survival.

   Which brings us to the Kirby tribute book that's wrapping up next month. The idea is a basic one: a creative team picks up each issue and resolves the cliffhanger left by the previous team, tells a short story, and then ends on a cliffhanger for the next team to sort out.

   The result has been a (mostly) interesting run of action / adventure tales, with not much in the way of emotional growth - but lots of destruction and plenty of explosions.

   Whether I was committed to the whole series or not, I would have grabbed this issue just for the art of Walt Simonson. A powerful artist and designer, he's one of the few able to channel the spirit of Kirby's work while working in his own unique style.

   The story is by Rob Williams, and it covers the bases, throwing in some space battles, heroic sharks, killer robots and lots more fun.

   While a few of the stories have been a bit too grisly, they've tapped into the Saturday movie serial feeling they're meant to evoke - and each creative team has apparently had fun with the idea. It's a shame to see it end!

Grade: A-


Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Invincible Iron Man #694

   The title of the comic may be The Invincible Iron Man (with a welcome return to the original numbering, no less), but this issue has precious little actual Iron Man content.

   It does feature Ironheart, the teen prodigy who's taken the spotlight in this series while Tony Stark has been in a coma.

   But the focus is actually on The Infamous Iron Man (the newly reformed Victor Von Doom) as his heroic actions have spawned a new raft of enemies - and they're out for revenge.

   The general feeling is that writer Brian Michael Bendis is wrapping up the story threads he's been weaving for the last year or so - and that's a good thing.

   It also dovetails nicely into the Legacy concept, which promises to restore the original heroes to prominence.

   The art chores are divided by Stefano Caselli (who handles the Ironheart segments) and Alex Maleev, who covers the Dr. Doom part of our program. Both are excellent, though their styles are very different.

    The series continues to build nicely, and as much as I enjoy Ironheart's adventures, I'd like to see more of the original hero in these pages. (It's been his comic for quite a while, after all.) Hopefully that's just around the corner.

Grade: A-


Friday, November 24, 2017

Guest Review: Boy Maximortal #1

    Hey, yesterday was Thanksgiving in the U.S., and I'm thankful for you readers - especially the ones who send in Guest Reviews!

   Here's one now from one my friends who prefers to remain Anonymous. Here's his review of 

Boy Maximortal #1.


   While I'm certain it's common practice for most of us who collect things, there are some creators whose work I always purchase whenever possible. I'm not saying that I always like or even appreciate what they do, but I want to know what they're doing. 

   Simply put, these creators that I follow religiously did work in the past that I found groundbreaking and thought provoking, and I hope they'll do it again someday.

   Musicians like Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails or Alice in Chains. Filmmakers like David Fincher and M. Night Shyamalan. And comic creators like Jonathan Hickman, Mike Mignola and the creator of the book that I'm reviewing today, Rick Veitch.

   Veitch has long been one of my favorite comic book creators. He's an odd mix of reverence for those creators and properties of the past while also being more than willing to slit traditional characters wide open and show us their ugly insides. 

   His early DC work, the amazing and all-too-familiar 1963 run at Image, and his Shadow homage, Greyshirt (also for Image) are just a few examples of his work that I love and appreciate. But it's his magnum opus, what's called his "King Hell Heroica" series that was started with 1991's Bratpack, that really sets him apart for me. 

   Which bring me to this review that returns us to the King Hell Heroica universe, the recently released Boy Maximortal #1, which Veitch is publishing without traditional distribution through Diamond and is available through Amazon. 

    Standing on the shoulders of Bratpack, the previous Maximortal series and other related titles, Veitch takes us to a familiar world that explores the original archetypes of superheroes but stretches our understanding of the conventional superhero into a worse-than-Watchmen world that pulls no punches. 

   More interestingly, Veitch uses the character of his Superman-esque True Man(tm) to explore the horrible mistreatment of the Man of Steel's creators at the hands of slimy editors and insidious comic companies. 

   While DC comics and its predecessor takes their well-earned lumps in Maximortal, the new Boy Maximortal book focuses on a new enemy that seems all too familiar with fancy adjectives and the familiar name, "Stanley. " (Get it?) 

   Veitch's story not only reopens this universe, but also gives us a look inside the mind of comic artist "King" and the still fresh mental wounds from his military service in WW2. Like the majority of Veitch's work, this book is not for the timid, but it does take the reader on a compelling ride that you won't find anywhere else.

   Veitch's reverence for the properties and creators of the past is not only found in his writing, but also in his art. His classic style gives his work a nostalgic feel, at least until you read the word balloons or grasp the nature of the story.

   Unlike some reviews of other books, I would not suggest that you start with Boy Maximortal #1 if you have not read the rest of the King Hell Heroica thus far. It is well worth your time and treasure to go back to Bratpack and read everything that leads up to this book. 

   As Veitch shifts his critical eye from DC to Marvel, you will find yourself in an amazing superhero story that works on so many levels. It's great to see this story continue and I hope Veitch continues to add to this rich universe.

Grade: A+


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Doomsday Clock #1 (of 12)

   It's funny that I didn't have (much of) a problem with the Before Watchmen series DC created without the input of original writer Alan Moore, but I feel a bit squishy about Doomsday Clock, which brings those characters (or that alternate reality - Earth-W?) into direct contact with the mainstream DC Universe.

   The original series works so well as a standalone book, I can't help but wonder / worry what effect this series will have.

   This first issue is actually a direct followup to the original series, as it checks in with the present state of affairs on that world following the massive events at the end of the original series.

   It also features the return of a character you wouldn't expect to see again, since he was killed in spectacular (and definitive) fashion by the godlike Dr. Manhattan.

   You'll only find a few pages of DC content as the focus is on machinations in the Watchmen-verse.

   The writing by Geoff Johns evokes the classic Moore series, though it remains to be seen if it can match the complexity of the original work.

   The art by Gary Frank, with colors by Brad Anderson, is impressive as always, evoking a grim reality and done in the style of Dave Gibbons' original art, mostly imitating the nine panels to a page format.

   So why am I squishy about this? Well, it seems wrong to do a sequel without the involvement (or agreement) of the original creators. I know DC has every legal right to do this, but I'm not so clear on the moral rights.

   The Before Watchman prequel was tolerable because it was placed in the original world and didn't change anything about the work of the creators. But this series is already introducing new characters, making changes (possibly drastic ones) to existing characters, and potentially changing everything about Watchmen. By making this just another alternant reality Earth to be visited on a whim, it somehow diminishes the concept.

   We'll see how it plays out - and yes, despite my reservations, I'll be reading along - but I'm not convinced that this is a good idea.

Grade: B+


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

New Comics Day

   A slim holiday week for me! (Happy Thnksgiving, everyone)! 

   Here's what I picked up today:

- ASTRO CITY #49 - The story of Resistor!

- DOOM PATROL #9 - Old enemies return!

- DOOMSDAY CLOCK #1 (OF 12) - The DC Universe collides
 with Watchmen!

- FLASH #35 - Can the damage to his family be repaired?

- INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #594 - The search for Tony Stark continues!

- KAMANDI CHALLENGE #11 (OF 12) - Art by Walt Simonson!

     And I received these review copies:

- DOCTOR WHO 10TH YEAR THREE #11 - Can Gabby be saved?

- DOLLFACE #11 - Searching out mystic bloodlines.

- DR RADAR #1 - Investigating deaths in 1920 Paris!

- MIRACULOUS #16 SIMON SAYS - A child's game and a deadly threat!

- OVERTAKEN #4 (OF 5) - Under assault!

- SANTERIA THE GODDESS KISS #5 (OF 5) - A tale spanning centuries!

- THE BEAUTIFUL DEATH #3 (OF 5) - Another survivor?

- TORCHWOOD THE CULLING #2 (OF 4) - Captain Jack's worst nightmare!

- WARHAMMER 40000 DAWN OF WAR #4 (OF 4) - The war continues!

- X-O MANOWAR #9 - Hail to the emperor!

- ZOMBIE TRAMP ONGOING #41 - Can a zombie die?

     And that's it!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Doctor Who 12th Doctor: Year Three #9

   The bad news is, we're rapidly approaching the Doctor Who Christmas Special, which sadly spells the end of Peter Capaldi's run as the 12th Doctor.

   The good news is, it looks like it's going to be a lot of fun, as it reunites him with the wonderful Bill, and it introduces a new and different Doctor!

   The bad news is, it looks like Nardole's run on the series is over, and Bill may also be done.

    The good news is, their adventures continue in the Titan Comics series, and the latest issue is a solid addition to the run.

   (OK, it's just good news for the rest of this review.)

   This "done in one" issue is mostly lighthearted as the trio go on a shopping trip - but when you're a Time Lord looking for special equipment, you can't just drop by Home Depot.

   So it's off to the Ubermarket, and some fun bits scattered among the usual running for your life.

   Nothing too serious or deep - it's just a fun story for fans of all ages.

   Like I said, Good News!

Grade: B+


Monday, November 20, 2017

Ninja-K #1

   I hate it when I find out I've been mispronouncing a comic book character's name.

   For example, I've been saying the name of Hela, the Asgardian / Marvel goddess of death, "He-lah." But in the Thor: Ragnarok movie, she was called "Hay-la."

   So now Ninjak is back in a new series, and I find that it's not "Nin-jack" - it's "Ninja-kay." Gah.

   All that should be cleared up a bit in this issue, which recaps the history of the secret program that led to the creation of the ultimate agent, Ninja-K.

   (And if you're suspecting that it all starts with someone named Ninja-A, then you're one sharp cookie.)

   We also see a new threat appear - one that may be unstoppable - and its ultimate target is Ninja-K!

   The story by Christos Gage is powerful and sheds light on some previously-hidden history (at least it was hidden to me).

   The art is by Tomas Giorello, a terrific and largely unsung artist who did amazing work on the King Conan series from Dark Horse. Here he breathes vivid life into a history lesson that's anything but dry, and throws in lots of action and heart!

   The series is off to a strong start, and this is a perfect jumping-on point for Ninja-K! Best of all, you'll avoid the shame of saying his name wrong (like some guys I could name)!

Grade: A-


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini #1

   If you would be a success in comics, my child, a great first step is getting a rave review / quote from a legend like Neil Gaiman, whose says: "I was seduced by Cynthia Von Buhler's artwork. She is a wonder."

   See, that would get me to pick up a comic.

   The topic doesn't hurt, either. So meet Mindy Woolcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini.

   She's a unique force in her time - an intelligent, ambitious woman who's driven to succeed in a business that doesn't want her - namely, her father's detective agency.

   Unfortunately, he doesn't agree and only allows her to work as his secretary - but when he's away, she there to meet a famous client: Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes and a one-time friend of Harry Houdini.

   He wants to hire a detective to investigate Houdini - and Mindy jumps at the chance, although it will take her to some seedy places.

   The story and art are by Von Buhler, and it's compelling stuff. The art is very expressive and down to Earth, to the point of being almost grimy.

   It's an unique series aimed at mature readers, and well worth tracking down.

Grade: A-


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Justice League - Movie Review

   So finally, after a long wait, the Justice League has arrived on the big screen.

   The good news is: I didn't hate it.

   The bad news is: it has problems. 

   The movie is all about putting the band together, following up on story threads laid out in the execrable Batman v Superman movie and the mostly-delightful Wonder Woman movie.

   So we find Batman (played by Ben Affleck), who's been fighting crime in Gotham for 20 years and is showing his age. He discovers the threat of an alien invasion, and when Diana (the luminous Gal Gadot) checks in with the same warning, they go in search of allies - namely, Aquaman (played with Surfer Dude / Point Break brio by Jason Momoa), the Flash (played with nervous energy and humor by Ezra Miller), and the mysterious Cyborg (played with a brooding intensity by Ray Fisher).

   The loss of Superman (Henry Cavill) at the end of BvS has left the Earth vulnerable, and the CGI monster known as Steppenwolf (the voice of Claran Hinds) brings an army of Parademons to conquer the planet - and considering what happened the first time he attacked the planet (depicted in a terrific flashback battle sequence), it looks bad for our side.

   So you can guess where it all goes, with the heroes trying to stop Steppenwofl before he can find the elements he needs to finish his plans.

   In a lot of ways this movie is a delight. As a longtime fan, it's wonderful to see these heroes working together - but the interactions are a bit clumsy, and the attempt at humor often fall flat. But at least there is some humor in there and a general feeling that the heroes are trying to help people. They even go out of their way to rescue innocent civilians (which would have been unheard of in Man of Steel or BvS).

   But the story just seems to stutter along, with no sense of urgency. When danger threatens the world, the heroes decide to... rest up for the evening, and then get down to the job at hand. (Oh, and while I'm throwing out problems, please: cut out the casual profanity - it's not needed; eliminate the random brutal deaths; and replace the Flash's costume - it just doesn't work, and the running effect needs tweaking. The super-speed stuff is great, but when they show him running it. looks. terrible.)

   Look, this is definitely the best of the "new" DC films (which include Suicide Squad, Man of Steel and BvS). They still have some work to do to get on the level of Marvel's films, but they're getting closer. They have a great cast and a really strong supporting cast, including Alfred (the wry Jeremy Irons), Lois Lane (the lovely but tough Amy Adams) and Commissioner Gordon (the amazing J.K. Simmons). 

   They have a solid team together (with room for more), and they have a much better tone and mix of personalities to work with.

   They just need a better opponent - and some better writing (and consistency) through the whole movie. 

   (Oh, and I was very happy to see Gardner Fox credited as the creator of the Justice League (of America) - but why no credit for Mike Sekowsky, who drew the book for its first eight (or so) years? Or Julius Schwartz, the editor who probably dreamed up the concept?)

Grade: B


Friday, November 17, 2017

The Incredible Hulk #710

   For the Incredible Hulk it's back to Planet Hulk again for the first time.

    Let me explain.

   This version of the Hulk is not Bruce Banner, who paid a memorable visit to the world Sakaar, fought a number of strange alien creatures, overthrew the government and became ruler.

   This time around, it's the Amadeus Cho version of the character, who finds himself in deadly danger, fighting the Warlord of Sakaar for the lives of a threatened tribe.

   But who will win the day - the genius side of Cho, or the animal side of the Hulk?

   As always, Greg Pak writes a powerful story and Greg Land's art is terrific, crafting beautiful and / or intense creatures and a strange world for them to inhabit.

    The issue suffers slightly from gladiatorial creep - the traditional "face impossible odds in the fighting arena" bit - but the action is fierce and it'll be fun to see where the story goes from here.

Grade: B+


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Not Brand Echh #14

   There's been a bit of a publishing gap between issues #13 and #14 of Not Brand Echh.

   To be exact, it's been 48 years.

   When the first issue appeared in 1967, I was stunned - it featured work by some of Marvel's top creators - including a Fantastical Four pastiche by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (!!)  - and it was absolutely hysterical.

   The issues that followed jabbed Marvel's greatest heroes (Ironed Man! Charlie America!) and even their competition's characters (Stuporman! Gnatman and Rotten!) - and 11-year-old Chuck was a huge fan.

   I wish I could say the same about the latest installment, but geezer Chuck (who, admittedly, is not the target audience), read this issue without ever managing to laugh out loud. (I did smile a few times.)

   The problem is that the issue is making fun of modern conceits (Cap is a member of Hydra! Deadpool and Gwenpool are everywhere! Let's give all the heroes new female counterparts!) - and the humorous takes are too close to what we're actually seeing in the comics.

   Well, that's probably too harsh - younger readers might get a huge kick out of this comic, since it focuses on their heroes.

    As for me, I'll keep hoping for the return of the Fantastical Four. Or, you know, the actual Fantastic Four.

Grade: C+



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- AMERICAN GODS #9 - The dead start piling up.


- CHAMPIONS #14 - Worlds collide!

- DEFENDERS #7 - Kingpins of New York!

- DOCTOR STRANGE #381 - Loki is the Sorcerer Supreme?

- HAWKEYE #12 - Fed up with clones!

- INCREDIBLE HULK #710 - Return to Planet Hulk!

- JUSTICE LEAGUE #33 - METAL tie-in!

- MAESTROS #2 - What is wizarding school like?

- MAGE HERO DENIED #4 (OF 15) - Kevin must fight a goddess!

- NOT BRAND ECHH #14 - The return of Forbush Man!

- MIGHTY THOR #701 - Death is on the way.

- WILD STORM #9 - Discovering alien tech!

- WYNONNA EARP SEASON ZERO #5 (OF 5) - Showdown with Mad Mary!

     And I received these review copies:

- ACTIONVERSE ONGOING #3 STRAY - Wrapping up the Rottweiler Years!

- ASPEN UNIVERSE DECIMATION #2 - Time for decimation!

- BLOODSHOT SALVATION #3 - Daddy dear.

- DOCTOR WHO 12TH YEAR THREE #9 - The Doctor, Bill and Nardole!

- HERCULES WRATH OF THE HEAVENS #4 - Facing his greatest enemies!

- KID SHERLOCK VOL 01 - Collecting the first adventures of the kid detective.

- MINKY WOODCOCK GIRL WHO HANDCUFFED HOUDINI #1 - Solving a mystery around Houdini!

- MISBEGOTTEN RUNAWAY NUN #3 - Lots of familiar faces.

- NINJA-K #1 - New series!

- PENNY DREADFUL #7 - Continuing the TV series.

- PRINCELESS RAVEN YEAR 2 #1 LOVE AND REVENGE - Adventure on the high seas!

- PUPPET MASTER CURTAIN CALL #1 - The final chapter!

- SHINOBI NINJA PRINCESS LIGHTNING ONI #3 - When it rains, it pours!

- WARHAMMER 40000 FALLEN #2 (OF 4) - Can the Dark Angels be destroyed?
     And that's it! Whew!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Harbinger Renegade #1

   While I've never been a fan of "zero" issues, this is a "done in one" adventure that sets up the upcoming Harbinger Wars event book for Valiant - and it's well worth checking out.

   The focus is on a military strike mission by the augmented H.A.R.D. Corps team (a SEAL-type team with super-powers), which hopes to take down a psiot terrorist.

   Their target seems to be hiding on a remote island, so the team plans its attack carefully. Of course, any war plan rarely survives the first encounter on the battlefield - and the team soon finds itself in a fierce firefight.

   It's a wild, brutal fight from start to finish, with a strong script by Rafer Roberts and powerful art by Juan Jose Ryp.

   It lays the foundation for a bigger story down the road - one that has world-shaking potential. Recommended!

Grade: B+



Monday, November 13, 2017

Dan Dare #2

   I enjoyed the first issue of the new Dan Dare series, and the second issue offers more of the same high adventure and alien menace.

   The first issue ended with Dan wishing for a new challenge - and he may regret that thought, as a giant alien starship invades our galaxy and destroys one of Saturn's moons!

   Dan and his partners in adventure - Digby and Peabody - rocket to intercept the ship and try to learn more about it - but they receive an unfriendly welcome, and then meet someone who might be a new ally.

   The mystery of the alien invaders is rolling out slowly, but it's building nicely.

   With terrific art by Alberto Foche and a strong script by Peter Milligan, this series continues to carry on the highly-regarded traditions of the original series.


Grade: A-


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Marvel's Movies Rated (So Far)

   My friends were debating how we rate the Marvel movies. We never agree with the posted lists (and on the Internet, there are many lists to choose from), so we decided to make our own lists - and here's mine.  

   (EDIT: The only Marvel Comics-based movies included here are the ones made by Marvel Studios - as El Vox points out in the comments, there are many other great movies from other studios.)

   Your mileage may vary, but here's how I rate the Marvel Studios movies: 

17. The Incredible Hulk - Shaky CGI, a blah story and a mindless slugfest at the end. Not terrible, but not great.

16. Iron Man 2 - This one had lots of potential and some nice moments, but the resolution was weak.

15. Iron Man 3 - Only marginally better than the second IM film. As much as I like Ben Kingsley, he was largely wasted here for a gag.

14. Thor 2: The Dark World - Pretty bleak, with some solid Thor / Loki moments. The bad guy was forgettable (and a waste of a terrific actor).

13. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 - Its only real sin was not being as good as the excellent first film. And Mantis was largely wasted.

12. Ant-Man - I enjoyed this one a lot - the second-funniest Marvel film yet. 

11. Doctor Strange - Again, I liked it a lot, but it suffered a bit from origin-itis. Lots of ground to cover.

10. Spider-Man: Homecoming - Love Holland in the role, it was lots of fun, but maybe needed a little less Tony Stark content.

9. Thor - This one has some shaky moments, but seeing the pantheon brought to life (including Odin, the Warriors Three, Sif, Loki and the Destroyer) and the redemption / resurrection sequence - all added up to a solid favorite for me.

8. Avengers: Age of Ultron - There's a lot to like here, but it was a just a bit too bloated and dark to meet expectations. Still, lots of awesome.

7. Thor: Ragnarok - A fun romp but a lot of death for a movie that's supposed to be funny.

6. Captain America: The First Avenger - A terrific period piece and a really strong film. Loved it, and whooped aloud when the Howlers appeared.

5. Captain America: Winter Soldier - A heck of a political thriller - a solid story and some great twists. Shows why Cap is Marvel Studio's greatest hero.

4. Iron Man - A wonderful self-contained gem that gave the whole Marvel movie monster its start. (If you love Marvel's movies, remember this: if this film had flopped, we probably wouldn't have seen any more of them.)

3. Captain America: Civil War - Heroes duking it out (with good cause), some genuine surprises and Ant-Man turning into Giant-Man (which also got a whoop out of me). 

2. Guardians of the Galaxy - Just a heck of a romp from beginning to end - you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll believe a raccoon can fly! Great soundtrack!

1. The Avengers - A near-perfect superhero film, with amazing battles, lots of humor and action, characters you care about, and a powerful finish. Best use of the Hulk (although Ragnarok may get the title now) - love the "I'm always angry" sequence - and the final confrontation with Loki and the Hulk. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Jessica Jones #14

   There's not much to say about the latest issue of Jessica Jones that hasn't been said before.

   The story by Brian Michael Bendis is powerful, edgy and unsettling, and the art by Michael Gaydos is terrific - moody and striking. It's a terrific adults-only series and well worth your time - if you can handle the intense nature of the stories.

   But instead of the comic, I want to take a moment to talk about Bendis.

   It was announced this week that he's signed an exclusive contract with DC Comics, so after spending virtually his entire career working at Marvel, he's off to new lands.

   He's certainly had a profound effect on Marvel, from his work on the Ultimate Universe, crafting a new course for Spider-Man and creating Mile Morales, to creating new characters like Jessica Jones.

    He (almost) invented the event series, beginning with House of M, and following it up with several other universe-shaking events, including Secret Invasion. He deconstructed and reinvented the Avengers and created the New Avengers. He had memorable runs on Daredevil, the X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Iron Man.

   He killed characters off, including Ultimate (Peter Parker) Spider-Man, Hawkeye and Jack of Hearts. (So yes, he made mistakes.)

   In addition to the impressive number of great stories he's written, I think he deserves credit for pushing Marvel in the direction of focusing on the writing end of the equation. Art is very important, of course - the medium is a terrific merger of writing and art - but as the old theatre saying goes, "If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage."

   Marvel became the top company in the business thanks largely to its focus on the writing, building great stories and characters. It helps to have writers like Bendis who focus on the visuals, but aren't afraid to devote lots of time to fleshing out the characters and making the reader care about them. And there are few writers who write better dialogue.

   Hopefully he'll be able to have a similar impact on DC's line - both companies are in need of focus, to bring their bloated continuities into line, and to focus on the terrific characters they have in their stables.

   It'll be interesting to see what books he tackles - one would expect Batman and Justice League, but Bendis rarely does the obvious, so we'll see.

   Hopefully Marvel can find some fresh talent to step in and carry on Bendis' traditions - and someone who can continue the edgy drama we've come to expect from Jessica Jones.

Grade: A-



Friday, November 10, 2017

Mister Miracle #4 (of 12)

   The thing most writers change when they tackle a Jack Kirby creation like Mister Miracle is the inherent strangeness of the concept.

   Writer Tom King has not only embraced it - he's amped the weirdness up to a new level.

   The result is an odd, dream-like series that keeps the reader entirely off-balance. Is what we're seeing real? Is it just happening in Scott Free's mind? Is Darkseid somehow manipulating reality? What's up with Big Barda?

    It's an answer we probably won't discover for a while. Is it a trap for MM to escape? Or is reality a trap?

   That's the brilliance of the Escape Artist concept, of course - we read comics to escape reality, the heroes are fighting to escape death or to help others to escape - it all ties together neatly in the hands of a strong writer.

   I also enjoy the sprinkling of original Kirby-written passages through the story - it brings it all full-circle.

   The art by Mitch Gerads gives us a mix of real-world versions of the characters involved, along with some dreamlike imagery and some more traditional heroics. And I love that cover by Nick Derington!

   This isn't a traditional comic book adventure (and certainly not a typical New Gods story), but after a rocky first issue, it's settled into a very compelling story. Recommended!

Grade: A-


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Master of Kung Fu #126

   Sigh. I had high hopes for this comic.

   After all, it features the all-too-rare return of Shang-Chi, the heroic son of Fu Manchu whose original series in the '70s was a real favorite.

   As part of its "Legacy" program, Marvel has been peppering us with "update issues" focusing on various heroes who've been out of the limelight, including Power Pack last week and Master of Kung Fu right here.

   (Of course, completists will have to pick up this issue to keep their collections intact.)

   Then I heard that former pro wrestler C.M. Punk was writing this issue, and that gave me hope, because he's a well-established, long-time fan of comic books - and quick-witted, too.                                      

   But the story is just... ok. Titled "Shang-Chi's Day Off," it focuses on some odd characters, lots of humor, a silly villain and an odd plot involving training animals to fight - it never quite gets beyond the level of being just a series of gags.

   The art by Dalabor Talajic is very good, with a nice gritty feel to the proceedings - but it's not enough to lift this one-shot above the status of being a basic fill-in issue.

Grade: B


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- DAREDEVIL #595 - Mayor Fisk?

- FLASH #34 - A shocking reunion!

- GREEN HORNET MEETS SPIRIT #5 (OF 5) - Kato's life hangs in the balance!

- JESSICA JONES #14 - Return of the Purple Man!

- MASTER OF KUNG FU #126 - Shang-Chi's day off!

- MISTER MIRACLE #4 (OF 12) - The trial of Mister Miracle!

     And I received these comics for review:

- 4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK TPB - Collecting the series about criminal kids!

- ADVENTURES OF MIRU TPB VOL 01 - Why is Miru on the most wanted list?

- AMERIKARATE #8 - The final showdown!

- DAN DARE #2 - New adventures with the classic hero!

- DANGER DOLL SQUAD #2 - Battling a techno virus!

- DOCTOR WHO 12TH COMPLETE ED YEAR ONE - Sixteen issues in one big hardcover!

- FIGHTING AMERICAN #2 - Trapped in the modern world!

- FORCE #1 - The biggest game of his life!

- HARBINGER RENEGADE #0 - The prelude to Harbringer Wars 2!

- HARCOURT LEGACY #1 (OF 3) - Can a teenager handle the secrets of magic?

- IAN LIVINGSTONES FREEWAY FIGHTER TPB - Collecting the hard-hitting series!

- MISBEGOTTEN RUNAWAY NUN #2 - So many body doubles!

- RIVERS OF LONDON CRY FOX #1 - Tackling supernatural crimes!

- SHERLOCK GREAT GAME #4 (OF 6) - Concluding the latest TV adaptation.

- THERE'S NOTHING THERE #5 - Reno confronts her tormentors!

- TOYETICA #4 - Is there such a thing as a harmless toy?

- WONDERFUL WORLD OF TANK GIRL #1 - Back for another round!

     Whew! And that's it!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension Omega (#8 of 8)

      Some of the best Doctor Who stories (or at least the ones I enjoy the most) bring together different incarnations of The Doctor.

   Whoops, forgot the recap: Doctor Who is a long-lived alien who travels through space and time in a machine / starship called the Tardis that's bigger on the inside. If he is killed during an adventure, his body regenerates in the shape of an entirely different actor - something it's done 13 times so far (depending on who's counting) - and it'll be happening again in about a month. Apparently.

   So this issue gives us a galactic menace - mysterious white holes that, like their black hole counterparts, draw in any object - and they seem to be unstoppable.

   You'll see lots of Doctors popping up in this series, as they discover the surprising person behind the white holes - and work together to devise a solution.

   And with a small army of Doctors and a swarm of Companions to tackle the problem, you can expect some wild twists and turns.

   It's a delight to see the different characters interact in this tale, and it gives each character the proper voice and attitude.

   As always, it's great fun watching this lot trying to one-up each other. Loved it!

Grade: A-


Monday, November 6, 2017

The Jetsons #1 - Guest Review

   Hey, it’s time for a Guest Review! My pal Bruce Rosenberger sends along this review of a comic based on a beloved Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

   This was a total surprise to me when I saw it. One look at the cover of The Jetsons and I instantly thought, oh no! Serious version of comic (cartoon), another Archie type series. 

   I instantly moved on through the pile, but then I stopped and chastised myself. I am seeing more and more closed-minded comic fans dismissing newer comics and the movies as heresy, and I’ve discovered that, most of the time, I think they’re wrong. So (admittedly very reluctantly) I read the issue.

   On page one we’re introduced to the Jetson family in the age old manor, “Meet George Jetson...” (you probably know the rest!) but then we are immediately introduced to the family as their new more realistic characters. 

   The story moves along updating us on WHO each of the family are, and what they do, and before the issue ends, we are given the beginning of t the overarching story.

   For the most part, I don’t really see these new characters as the Jetson family, even Rosie the robot is not what you recall from the cartoons. As for Astro? We’ve seen him, but that’s about that. 

   I’m hoping the characters will be fleshed out a little better as the story progresses because, as I said, these aren’t the Jetsons we know and love, but at the same time, I think we’ve been introduced to some good characters. 

   The story itself moves along okay for the first two-thirds of the issue, and then plods a little for a couple pages, but all in all I’m interested to see where it goes. 

   I’ll give it a solid:

Grade: B


Sunday, November 5, 2017

No World #6 (of 6)

   This issue wraps up an effort by Aspen to mold an Avengers / JLA style comic, teaming up a variety of heroes to tackle a powerful opponent.

   And if this team fails, there will be No World left to defend.

   The issue picks up with last issue's shocking ending - the apparent betrayal of a team member and the apparent death of another teammate.

   The heroes are underpowered and outmatched - and their only hope is with the "weakest" member of the team.

   It's a solid issue and the action moves along briskly (though the new reader may struggle to sort out the heroes - most aren't well-known names to the casual reader).

   With strong art and a solid story, this series is a good set-up for future adventures with a team of heroes from the Aspen Universe.

Grade: B



Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Avengers #673

   As a long-time fan, I'm really enjoying the story writer Mark Waid is crafting here in this crossover between The Avengers and The Champions.

   While a modern tale, it evokes the classic Justice League / Justice Society crossovers that were so special in the 1960s.

   The Earth faces a deadly threat from the Counter-Earth - a duplicate of our world created by the god-like High Evolutionary. For some years it orbited on the far side of the sun - then it was apparently destroyed. Now, somehow, it's back - and its orbit is much faster.

   To cope with the threats at many locations around the world (and on the other world), the two teams are working together, and have split into groups - a classic scheme!

   The main focus is on the Falcon and Viv Vision, who confront the H.E. face-to-face - but will they walk away unchanged?

   We're only halfway through this six-part crossover, and so far, it's shaping up to be a classic!

Grade: A-



Friday, November 3, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok - Movie Review

   The quick review of Thor: Ragnarok is: it's a heck of a lot of fun! But while I enjoyed it, I can't say it's the best Marvel movie ever.

   I think the problem is that it's being presented as a comedy, and while there's quite a bit of humor in it, there's also a lot of death and destruction - and it's difficult to laugh that off.

   It's loaded with great characters - Chris Hemsworth has never been better as Thor, Tom Hiddleston gets to have a lot of fun as Loki, and Cate Blanchett is wonderful as Hela (whose name I've apparently been mispronouncing all these decades - I thought it was "He-lah," but apparently it's "Hay-la"). There is no scenery she doesn't take delight in chewing, and (despite the whole death-dealing shtick), she's a blast of energy anytime she's on the screen.

   The action sequences are amazing - the Hulk / Thor fight actually exceeded my expectations and was a powerful confrontation, worthy of past classic comic book fights between the two. 

   And there are fun bits of business along the way, including a great cameo by Dr. Strange; a wonderful new character in arena fighter Korg; some zany moments with the irrepressible Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster; some heartfelt moments between Thor, Loki and Odin; a great new character in the Valkyrie; and some entertaining "buddy movie" moments with the Hulk (who works so much better as a character now that he can talk).

   But there are problems. The Warriors Three (Fandral, Hogan and Volstagg) are given terribly short shrift - was Sif even in the movie? Jane Foster was written out with a tossaway line (though perhaps that was unavoidable). The death and destruction are on a grim scale (which one would expect from Ragnarok, I suppose). Also, the writers play awfully fast and loose with the history of Asgard - especially Hela's origin.

   But any quibbles are mostly minor - the movie is a rollicking good time, sweeping from alien worlds to Earth and Asgard and various other points of interest. Most of the humor hits the mark and brings Thor much more in line with the excellent Walt Simonson version of the character, rather than his usual depiction as a humorless oaf (a mistake too many writers make). Like Superman, Thor should be having fun - he's powerful, virtually indestructible and handsome - what's not to like?

   But don't go into this movie expecting the best Marvel movie ever - that title still belongs to The Avengers (or maybe Captain America: Civil War) - but Ragnarok is one of the best, and mighty entertaining.