Friday, August 31, 2018

The Beatles: Yellow Submarine

   The Yellow Submarine is such a wonderful artifact from the 1960s - an animated film that combined the music of The Beatles with a mad, pop art explosion of strange worlds, bizarre creatures, wonderful music and clever wordplay. 

   Astonishingly enough for those of us who were around when it was released, it's been 50 years since the film was first unleashed on an unsuspecting audience.

   To celebrate the occasion, writer / artist Bill Morrison has adapted the film into this delightful explosion of a graphic novel from Titan Comics.

   It's no small trick to adapt a musical into the silent format of comics, and wisely Morrison has avoided copying lyrics directly into the body of the story - but he captures the gleeful, nearly insane energy of the original.

   The story follows an attack by an army of Blue Meanies (and assorted monsters) on the peaceful, music-loving people of Pepperland. Only one man manages to escape in a (ahem) Yellow Submarine. He tracks down John, Paul, George and Ringo and they travel back to that land to try to find a way to break the hold of the Meanies.

   It's all very strange, but the script is sharp and manages to work in an astonishing number of song references along the way. 

   The visuals, modeled on the original film, are stunning and mad as a hatter.

   There's a long tradition of comic adaptations of movies (a tradition that's largely disappeared in this age of Blu-Rays and Netflix), but this is one of the best of that breed of comics. 

   If you're a fan of the Beatles and the original film (as all right-thinking people are), you'll enjoy the warm nostalgic breeze from this work of art. Highly recommended!

Grade: A



Thursday, August 30, 2018

In Memory: Russ Heath, Marie Severin & Gary Friedrich

   It's been a rough week for comics fans, as the industry lost three titans whose work was such a big part of the Silver Age of comics - and their work stretched long after that, as well.

   Last week we lost artist Russ Heath, one of the finest craftsmen in the history of the industry. 

   Best known for his artwork on DC's war comics (especially The Haunted Tank), Heath's work was amazing for its realistic depiction of people, machinery and environments.

   I first discovered his work in the amazing Sea Devils comic, which followed the adventures of a team of undersea explorers who kept running into strange mythological monsters.

   His covers were stunning works of art, standing out from the crowd. Sadly, his work was also swiped by a certain famous artist (he who should not be named) who made a killing copying Heath's work and selling it for huge sums at art galleries. 

   Heath was always magnanimous about that theft, which says a lot about what a terrific guy he was - but he deserved better.


   This week we lost the woman who managed to win a spot in the (virtually) all-male Marvel Bullpen. 

   Marie Severin started as a colorist at EC Comics but eventually found her way to Marvel, sometimes working with her brother John (who had lured her into the business). 

   Best known for her comical work, such as for the classic Not Brand Echh series, Marie also turned in terrific work (to name just a few) on Dr. Strange, Sub-Mariner, the Hulk and Kull the Conqueror (her work on that series with her brother John inking was one of the high points in Marvel's considerable sword-and-sorcery output).

   Blessed with a tremendous sense of humor and a kind spirit, Marie was a favorite of the fans - and of all those who love comics.


    I first encountered Gary Friedrich in the late 1960s in the pages of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos - which must have been a odd fit for the young writer during that time, since the Vietnam War (and the anti-war movement) was raging.

   But his stories we terrific and he went on to a solid career through the '60s and '70s, creating the modern-day (Johnny Blaze) Ghost Rider, the Son of Satan and crafting hundreds of stories for most of Marvel's line, including X-Men, the Hulk, Daredevil and Nick Fury.

   While he never reached the top tier of writers, his work was always entertaining and often compelling. He helped make Marvel the powerhouse it is today, and created its most lasting supernatural character.


    It's a sad farewell to these wonderful creators - all three of them were a cherished part of my early years of reading comics!


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

New Comics Day

   It's the fifth week of the month, so pickings are a bit slim. How slim? Well, the only comic I picked up today was:

- MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #9 - The return of the FF!

     And I got these review copies:

- 2021 TP VOL 01 - A cross between "Escape from New York" and "X-Men!"

- BEATLES YELLOW SUBMARINE TP - "In the town where I was born, lived a man who sailed to sea..."

- DISSENSION WAR ETERNAL #2 - War in the not-so-distant future.

- DOCTOR WHO 9TH TP VOL. 4 SIN EATERS - The adventures of the 9th Doctor continue!

- FACTORY TP - The future is a nightmare!

- HARBINGER WARS 2 #4 (OF 4) - The final battle!

- PENNY DREADFUL #11 - The TV show continues!

- TANK GIRL ALL STARS #3 (OF 4) - The birthday celebration continues!

- WONDERFUL WORLD OF TANK GIRL HC - Collecting the new series!

- X-O MANOWAR #18 - The executioner's blade!

- ZOMBIE TRAMP ONGOING #51 - Is the title character still alive?

     And that's it!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Artifact One #0

   Like any proper issued numbered "0" (don't get me started on that tradition), Artifact One is a little preview for the upcoming series from Aspen.

   Emphasis on the "little."

   That's because we just get a quick, tantalizing glimpse of what to expect from the series to come.

   It centers around a strange alien world and a young woman named Remi. She's something of a cross between a scavenger and an archaeologist as she looks for precious items and hidden artifacts.

   But she lives in a difficult world to follow those pursuits. Life is ruled by a religious sect that demands blind obedience to their rules - and among those rules is the importance of not being curious about the past.

   It quickly becomes obvious that Remi and her father are on a collision course with the powers that be.

   The art for this issue is by Romina Moranelli, and it's a lovely, exotic world of pastel colors and vivid creatures.

   For $1.50, this is a low-cost way to check out this series. so far  it's an interesting science fiction tale that's being crafted - and there's lots of potential in the mix.

Grade: B+


Sunday, August 26, 2018

West Coast Avengers #1

   This new version of West Coast Avengers is a somewhat-disguised continuation of the most recent (and pretty darn good) Hawkeye series (which mostly starred the Kate Bishop version of the hero, with some cameos by the Clint Barton edition).

   But more characters doesn't always mean a better comic.

   This first issue is weighed down a bit by the convention of having to put together the team. Most team books take a deadly serious approach to that task, but here's it's handled in a much more lighthearted fashion.

   The team is an unlikely and somewhat surprising collection of heroes, sorta-heroes and brand new heroes.

   It's mostly played for laughs, and that's fine (though you have to wonder how the Avengers will feel about this bunch).

   It's a bit of a shaky start, but if you're looking for a book that balances heroism with humor, this should fill the bill.

Grade: B+


Saturday, August 25, 2018

Action Comics #1002

      After a solid start to writer Brian Michael Bendis's run on the two Superman titles, this issue of Action Comics offers a moment of decompression.

   It puts the focus on Clark Kent and shows why he's a successful reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper - and it shows several dangerous forces gathering around him.

   It's not a bad issue at all, but it offers precious little for Superman to do.

   But it does manage a surprising twist at the end!

Grade: B


Friday, August 24, 2018

Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men #1

   The excellent series Beasts of Burden returns with several surprises, not the least of which is the fact that co-creator Jill Thompson didn't provide the art in this issue.

   Thankfully artist Benjamin Dewey turns in terrific work, with a wonderful eye towards creating realistic animals and settings.

   The issue, written by co-creator Evan Dorkin, takes up away from the usual cast - a group of dogs learning their roles, protecting the village of Burden from supernatural and horrific threats - and instead focuses on the elder statesmen of their order, as they face a terrible threat - and the promise of a bigger one gaining strength.

   It's a tremendous series, carving its own niche in the horror market (I can't stress strongly enough, this is not a comic for children). 

   Every fan of horror - and great comics - should be reading this series.

Grade: A-


Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Avengers #6

   This issue wraps up the opening storyline for the latest version of The Avengers, as they tackle the impossible challenge of stopping the Final Host - a group of titanic Celestials that "killed" a bunch of other Celestials.

   The problem with impossible-to-stop opponents is that, in order to actually stop them, the heroes must dream up an impossible solution - and we get that here, and then some.

   It's all pretty silly and way over the top - but still manages to be fun in a comic bookish finale.

   A decent start to the new series - and great art - but here's hoping for some more down-to-Earth opponents in the future.

Grade: B+


Back in Action

   Your pal Chuck took advantage of some vacation time and took a wonderful family trip - so I'm running behind in my blogging duties - sorry about that (but not sorry, if you know what I mean)!

   We'll have some quick reviews this week as we get caught up - bear with me!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

New Comics Day

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

ACTION COMICS #1002 - Crime is on the rise!

AVENGERS #6 - The Final Host finale!

BEASTS OF BURDEN #1 (OF 4) WISE DOGS & ELDRITCH MEN - What is luring monsters to town?

DAREDEVIL #607 - Who is Mike Murdock?

LIFE OF CAPTAIN MARVEL #2 (OF 5) - Her origin continues!

TERRIFICS #7 - Where is Tom Strong?

    And I received  these review copies:

ABERRANT #3 - Infiltrating an enemy warehouse!

ARTIFACT ONE #0 - What if you knew a secret that could change the world?

BRITANNIA LOST EAGLES OF ROME #2 (OF 4)  - Three Roman legions slaughtered?

DOUBLE JUMPERS FULL CIRCLE JERKS #1 (OF 4) - A video game villain on the loose!

EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT IRIS #4 - Fight for your life!

MIKE HAMMER #3 - A new story from a plot by Mickey Spillane!

QUANTUM & WOODY #9 - Breaking up is hard to do!

SHADOWMAN #6 - The rise of Shadowman!

SOULFIRE VOL 7 #2 - In a magical realm, danger threatens!

TWELVE DEVILS DANCING #2  - The conclusion!

VAMPBLADE TP VOL. 7 Double the Vampblade!

ZOMBIE TRAMP TP VOL 14 REDEEMER BORN - Jenny monstrous side takes hold!

     And that's it!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Doctor Strange #4

   Writer Mark Waid generally has a really good grasp of "what makes a hero work." 

   He's demonstrated it time and again on characters like Daredevil, Captain America and the Fantastic Four, to name just a few (Marvel division).

   I was a little leery of him taking over Doctor Strange's comic, because he did a mini-series about the Doc several years back and it didn't quite work.

   Happily, we can now see that series was the exception. 

   Under Waid's guidance, working with the (quite excellent) artist Jesus Saiz, Strange is exploring the mystery of why his magic went away - and he's traveling across the universe to rediscover the power he's lost.

   He's also learning more about why he became the Sorcerer Supreme - and why he lost his way.

   It's a powerful story unfolding, and thanks to the alien setting, it's loaded with surprise twists and turns.

   Glad to see Doctor Strange - and Mark Waid - getting along so well!

Grade: A


Monday, August 20, 2018

Rivers of London: Water Weed #3

   Crime and magic go together like... well, actually, you wouldn't think they'd go together.

   But Rivers of London might change your mind.

   Based on the novels by Ben Aaronovitch, Water Weed follows an investigation into a small-time crime ring that's handling a deadly contraband - one that's grown by magic.

   We follow Detective Inspector Peter Grant as he tries to track down the source of the drugs, the clever and deadly forces behind it, and tries to find a way to survive an encounter with a cunning crime boss.

   This series is not for young readers because of violence and nudity. But it is an entertaining mix of genres and worth checking out.

Grade: A-



Sunday, August 19, 2018

Robotech #12

   Trapped behind enemy lines (in the heart of an alien spaceship, to be exact), how can the Vermillion Squad hope to survive?

   That's the challenge facing the heroes in the latest chapter of the continuing battle in Robotech.

   With terrific art by Hendry Prasetya and a fast-paced story by Simon Furman, this issue gives us a fast-paced adventure that's part jailbreak and part last stand against an overpowering enemy.

   (And there's even a little romance added in a quiet moment.)

   This comic is a dream come true for fans of the original series, but you really don't need to know the backstory to enjoy this one. 

   Good fun from start to finish!

Grade: A-


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Nu Way #2

   Be careful what you wish for!

   Set in a high-tech future, Nu Way is all about the merger of technology and human physiology.

   For those who can afford it, that means you'll always look young as aging body parts are replaced with advanced mechanical devices.

   It can also make fighters into superhuman machines, which leads to a rise of a brand of gladiators - and some very powerful folks who control those fighters.

    Add to the fighting mix a man named Zihao, who has trained to be a deadly fighter - but when he's scheduled for enhancement surgery, he decides to fight back.

   It's a clever story, with a nice mix of science fiction, superheroes and a touch of horror.

   Add in strong, futuristic artwork and you get a story that's "adult" in the best, most intelligent version of the word.

Grade: A-


Friday, August 17, 2018

Archie Meets Batman '66 #2

   This is definitely a crossover that makes sense.

   The Archie Universe often seems to be stuck in the '60s (at least in terms of the squeaky-clean sensibilities of the cartoonish version of the characters), and the original Batman TV show is certainly a beloved part of 1966's pop culture!

   The story centers around some odd goings-on in Riverdale, as the adults start behaving strangely (which is saying something for Riverdale).

   But who will believe the teenagers? How about Batman, who sends Robin and Batgirl into the town under cover in their civilian identities to solve the mystery.

   (Which begs the question - did Batgirl know the secret identities of Batman and Robin? Because if she didn't, she knows them now.)

   Of course, there are lots of classic Bat-villains along for the ride. 

    The art by Dan Parent and J. Bone is a pure delight. The story by Jeff Parker and Michael Moreci is fast and fun, but the issue doesn't so much end as it runs out of space. (It is continued into the next issue, of course.)

   This is a fun burst of nostalgia and so far the meeting of the two different worlds is an almost seamless affair. Fun!

Grade: B+



Thursday, August 16, 2018

Infinity Wars #2 (of 6)

   The new Infinity Wars series has a split personality.

   On one hand, the art is fantastic! That's because of the incredible work by Mike Deodato, Jr. and color artist Frank Martin. Their work combines stunning designs and layouts with near-photo-realistic characters.

   On the other hand, the story by Gerry Duggan is a bit of a mess. A small army of heroes and villains have gathered to discuss the use of the Infinity Stones - and of course, it all breaks down and a chaotic fight breaks out.

   Characters die, then they don't, then... well, it looks like more characters die, but it's difficult to say for sure. And all at the hands of someone who has no real reason to kill anyone.

   It just all feels like the same old territory being covered, and since the stones are so powerful, anything can happen - which means nothing has any lasting impact, since the stones can easily reverse any incident.

   No consequences, no drama. And that's the problem - so far, this series has had several shocking moments - but no drama at all.

Grade: C+


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

New Comics Day

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

- ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN 66 #2 - The crossover continues!

- DOCTOR STRANGE #4 - Interplanetary power trip!

- INFINITY WARS #2 (OF 6) - The Universe hangs in the balance!

- TONY STARK IRON MAN #3 - Character assassination!

- MAGE HERO DENIED #11 (OF 15) - Searching for his family!

- THOR #4 - The war for hell!

- USAGI YOJIMBO #5 (OF 7) THE HIDDEN - What is the secret that could topple the Shogunate?

- What is Project Thunderbook?

  And I received these review copies:

- GIRL WHO DANCED WITH DEATH MILL SAGA #1 (OF 3) - Hacking into deadly danger!

- MINKY WOODCOCK GIRL WHO HANDCUFFED HOUDINI HC - A female detective who stops at nothing to solve a mystery.

- NINJA-K #10 - The future of espionage!

- NU WAY #2 - Time for an upgrade - but at what price?

- RIVERS OF LONDON WATER WEED #3 - Some unique smugglers at work.


- Based on the animated adult show!

   And that's it!

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins

   For lack of a better term, The Adventure Zone is a family business.

   Sort of.

   It all started with the McElroy brothers - Justin, Travis and Griffin - who started up a comedy advice podcast called My Brother, My Brother and Me.

   It was a huge success, and soon they were performing live shows in front of sold-out crowds around the country - but they wanted to come up with a project that could include their father, Clint, a lifelong professional radio announcer.

   So they started a podcast that would involve the four of them playing Dungeons and Dragons - and they called it The Adventure Zone!

   The result was another comedy hit, as Clint, Justin and Travis created characters and tried to survive the trials devised by Griffin, the Dungeon Master.

   They managed to craft an amazing story of heroics, friendship and lots and lots (and lots) of jokes - and the show became a hit!

   Now you can hold it in your hands, as the McElroys have adapted the first several episodes of the podcast into a 250-page graphic novel titled Here There Be Gerblins! (And it's just the first of many planned volumes.)

   It drops you right in the middle of the action, as human warrior Magnus Burnsides (Travis), elf wizard Taako (Justin) and dwarf cleric Merle Highchurch (Clint) tackle a series of missions, guided by Griffin, who often pops into the proceedings, breaking the Fourth Wall.

   What follows is great mix of action, story twists and a wealth of very funny moments! (But fair warning - this isn't a book for young readers. There are quite a few four-letter words in evidence here.)

   The art is by Carey Pietsch, and the style is cartoonish, in a high-energy and fast-paced fashion. It's a heck of a lot of fun and matches up well to the humorous tone and exotic locales and even-more-exotic creatures that populate the story.

   Do I need to recommend it? The book is already on the New York Times Best Seller list, it's hugely popular and selling like crazy!

   What the heck, I'll recommend it anyway! It's mighty entertaining, and any fan of fantasy - or humor - or the Family McElroy (which is all good-hearted people everywhere) - are sure to love it!

Grade: A+


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Doctor Who: The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor #2

   As Doctor Who fans anxiously wait for the premiere of the new season starring the newest version of everyone's favorite Time Lord, Titan Comics helps us all prepare for the event with a mini-series titled The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor.

    Each issue checks in with the predecessors of the newest Doctor, starting with the Tenth Doctor - which means this issue, the second in the series, stars the Eleventh Doctor.

   Are you still with me?

   The adventure brings The Doctor and his companion Alice Obiefune to San Francisco in 1896, where they make a surprising discovery: the city's population includes a large number of humanoid robots!

   How they survive when faced with an army of killer robots - and how the menace might return to threaten the next version of The Doctor - is all part of the fun!

   It's short but entertaining, and always great to see the Matt Smith version of the character back in action!

Grade: B+


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Superman #2

   After this big buildup, the confrontation between Superman and Rogol Zaar, the alien who (presumably) destroyed Krypton, ended rather suddenly last issue.

   That menace was exiled to the Phantom Zone, which is (or was) sort of a dimensional prison for evil Kryptonians.

   But now, somehow, the entire planet Earth has been transported to the Phantom Zone - which threatens the stability of the planet and everyone on it!

   It's another powerful issue from writer Brian Michael Bendis, with amazing, over-the-top artwork by Ivan Reis.

   This issue is largely setting up the challenge facing Superman and his allies (plus we get a tiny bit more backstory for Zaar) - presumably next issue, all heck will break loose.

Grade: A-


Friday, August 10, 2018

The Sandman Universe #1

   The return of Neil Gaiman's Sandman would be a good reason to celebrate - but that's not exactly when we're getting here.

   Instead, The Sandman Universe takes us back to that Vertigo-based series - but the actual Sandman only makes a brief appearance.

   This issue is, basically, a trailer for the four comic books that are going to be based in the Gaiman-verse.

   But at least it's based on a story by Gaiman! It takes us into the Dreaming, where bad things are happening - and it falls to the flinty raven named Matthew to track down the absent lord of the realm. 

   That leads him to contact with the characters who will populate the aforementioned books. 

   Which will include:

   - The Dreaming, which is firmly set in the Sandman Universe and the characters who inhabit the land of dream.

   - Book of Magic, which stars Tim Hunter, created by Gaiman just before Harry Potter appeared and cornered the "young male magician who wears glasses and is fated to be pivotal in big moments" market.

   - Lucifer, which focuses on a quest by you-know-who.

   - and House of Whispers, a new addition to DC's mythology that has its foundation planted in the world of voodoo.

   So this issue gives us a taste, and it's a promising start. The first two comics are definitely on my "must buy" list, and the second two are on the "we'll see" list. 

   But it's great to see this mythology back in action again!

Grade: A-


Thursday, August 9, 2018

Fantastic Four #1

   I'm tempted to just write, "It's about time," and leave it at that.

   But I'm so happy to see the Fantastic Four finally back in print, I have to say more about it.

   The title is my all-time favorite, so it's been tough going without it for so long (and shame on Marvel for letting that happen in the first place - it was disrespectful to the fans, frankly).

   The new series has a strong creative force in writer Dan Slott, who has a great grip on the beating heart of the team and gives each character just the right voice.

   He's joined by artist Sara Pichelli, with Elisabetta D'Amico and color artist Marte Gracia, who bring a nice sense of design and character to the issue.

   The story brings us up to date on The Thing and the Human Torch, the half of the team still operating on Earth - and offers some clues about the disappearance of Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman and their children, Franklin and Valeria.

   It's wonderful and touching to see the story unfold - but that's one of the two problems with the issue. There's a lot of ground to cover and explanations to provide, so we don't really get to the heart of the matter until the end of the issue - and we only see the team together in flashbacks.

   The other problem, surprisingly, is with the art. Pichelli has given a somewhat new look to Ben and Johnny - and it really doesn't work for me. Ben's face is almost goofy in places, and the new design for Johnny's flame seems... well, bland. 

   All of which is surprising, because I really liked Pichelli's art on Spider-Man

    None of these picky complaints will stop me from buying each issue - I'm thrilled to see the FF back in action, and I'm anxious to see where it goes next.

   Thanks, Marvel, for bringing back "The World's Greatest Comics Magazine." Hopefully, very soon, it'll be worthy of that title again. But not quite yet.

Grade: B+


   (Let me also add how much I like the tribute to Steve Ditko that filled the first three pages of this comic - very classy.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

New Comics Day

     Here are the comics I picked up today at the comics shop:

- CHAMPIONS #23 - Two steps forward, one step back.

- DAREDEVIL #606 - What's up with Wolverine?

- FANTASTIC FOUR #1 - Back at last! 

- HAWKMAN #3 - A visit to Dinosaur Island!

- MAESTROS #7 - Something stirs in the dark.

- SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 - Return to the Gaiman-verse!

- SUPERMAN #2 - Escape from the Phantom Zone!

     And I received these review copies:

- BLACK BETTY VOL. 1 - Tracking down monsters!

- BLOODSHOT SALVATION #12 - End of the road!

- DOCTOR WHO ROAD TO 13TH DR #2 11TH - Robots in the 19th Century?

- HER INFERNAL DESCENT #4 - Inferno continues to change!

- KONUNGAR WAR OF CROWNS #3 - Epic fantasy!

- MOORCOCK LIBRARY CORUM VOL. 2 QUEEN OF SWORDS - Collecting the adventures of Moorcock's hero!

- RELAY #2 - The science fiction epic continues!

- ROBOTECH ARCHIVES MACROSS SAGA TP VOL 02 (OF 3) - Reprinting the classic comics! 


     And that's it!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Classic Comics: Top 10 Fantastic Four Issues!

    With the Fantastic Four comic book finally about to return, it seemed a good time to rerun this post!

   For this "Classic" review, I listed my personal Top 10 issues from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's run on the Fantastic Four.

   I'm not including their Annuals in the list. These are the issues that I remember most fondly, for various reasons. 

   The glaring omission is probably the first issue - it's historic, but frankly not that great a comic. The team was still working out the kinks, frankly.

   Anyway, here goes - my top 10, in reverse order (natch).

#10 - Fantastic Four 28

This comic is another great example of the Marvel formula wherein the good guys fight each other because of a misunderstanding. 

Here the Mad Thinker and the Puppet Master team up (for the first time, I believe), take control of Professor X and pit the Fantastic Four against the X-Men

The comic features loads of action, some fun plot twists and a great battle. 

It's not deep, it's not meaningful, but it is a heck of a lot of fun.

#9 - Fantastic Four 18

I can't swear that this was the first issue of the Fantastic Four that I ever saw - but it's the first one I remember reading.

It was loaded with mind-blowing concepts - alien races threatening the Earth! The Super Skrull, who copied the abilities of the entire FF! A battle royale where the good guys seem to have no chance of winning! 

And this was one of the earliest issues where Kirby really started having fun with Mr. Fantastic's abilities, as he forms a giant hammer with his hand and turns into a human glider.

It was an action-packed issue, and as a kid I knew this was something special. The FF shot to the top of my comics list. (Even though the ending of the story was a bit of a cheat.)

#8 - Fantastic Four 4

This is a comic I first read as a reprint, and even though the style of it was a bit crude compared to later efforts, it's loaded with power.

This one starts out with the Human Torch quitting the team (each member had a turn at this - some more than once). He hides out in the Bowery, where he finds a bearded bum who has amazing strength. He gives the guy a shave with his flame (kids, don't try this at home), and the bum is revealed to be the Sub-Mariner!

Recovering his memory, Namor goes to war against the human race, and dredges up a Godzilla-sized monster to help destroy New York City.

This one holds up amazingly well today, and managed to work in some romance and heroism in there, too. 

#7 - Fantastic Four 23

If earlier issues sparked my interest in the series, this comic sealed the deal. 

Dr. Doom plans a series of traps to try to eliminate the FF. He empowers three men (The Terrible Three - not Lee and Kirby's greatest creations) with specific abilities and manages to capture our heroes.

But when they escape, Doom triggers his biggest trap - a Solar Wave, which (somehow) slowly opens a portal to space. As the expanse of space spilled across the floor toward our heroes, I was transfixed.

The series was really getting its creative juices flowing, and I would be there the rest of the way.

#6 - Fantastic Four 26

One of the things Marvel did better than any other comics company, bar none, was fill an issue with action.

And few issues can beat this one, as we have the Fantastic Four and the Avengers teaming up to fight the Hulk in New York, with loads of destruction and mayhem along the way. 

The heroes don't exactly work well together - they practically stumble over each other in their eagerness to tackle the Hulk - but it was a blast to read and, I suspect, Stan and Jack were having as much fun as the readers were.

#5 - Fantastic Four 46

By this point, the creative team as really hitting on all cylinders.

After a few glimpses the issue before, with this issue we finally meet the Inhumans, as Black Bolt and the Royal Family attack the FF (they were confused about a lot of things at the time). 

The issue is packed with amazing sequences, as The Seeker tries to track down the Inhumans and captures the monstrous Dragon Man, all while the battle is raging.

The issue is loaded with amazing visuals, characters and concepts. By this point, Lee and Kirby and working on a different level from the rest of the industry.

#4 - Fantastic Four 43

What agony this issue caused! 

It was the wrap-up to an exciting story wherein the Frightful Four had brainwashed the Thing and the Human Torch into becoming evil and attacking the Fantastic Four. All seemed hopeless - and this issue had the answers.

But... it arrived at the newsstand the same day as Fantastic Four Annual #4, which featured the wedding of Reed and Sue! My family was on the way to my Grandparent's house to visit some cousins who were in town, and my 9-year-old self only had a quarter - enough to buy one issue or the other, but not both!

After much agonizing, I bought the annual. When we arrived at my Grandparents house, my cousin Jon loved the FF Annual and offered to buy it from me. When I hesitated, he offer 50 cents - so I sold it to him and talked Dad into stopping at the newsstand again on the way home, where I gleefully bought both issues.

Lucky for me! It's a terrific issue, loaded with surprises and drama. (And that annual is a classic, too!)

#3 - Fantastic Four 40

This could almost be my favorite issue.

The second of two parts, it features an FF who have lost their powers - yet they must confront Dr. Doom, who has taken control of the Baxter Building (their headquarters), and has turned Reed's inventions against the team. 

Aided by (a Wally Wood-drawn) Daredevil, the team faces overwhelming odds. They regain their powers through a bit of trickery by Reed (kind of a dirty trickery, at that), but it leads to a powerful moment. 

The team needs the help of the Thing to defeat Doom - but Ben hates being trapped in his monstrous form. After the change, he takes his anger out on Doom in a battle that is both brutal, intense and gripping.

I'd compare that final sequence to the classic Lee - Ditko scene where Spider-Man was trapped under machinery (actually, that issue was published after this one). The Thing battles through on courage and heart alone. It's a powerful sequence, and one of my all-time favorites.

#2 - Fantastic Four 51

Lots of fans will tell you that this is the best issue of the Fantastic Four - but they're wrong.

It is a great issue! It's a sad tale of a scientist who manages to steal the Thing's powers and appearance, intending to kill Reed Richards. Instead, he learns the most important lesson of his life - and redeems himself.

It's one of the most emotional issues of the Fantastic Four, and one of the best-written, too.

As a side note, this is also the issue where Reed discovers the Negative Zone - another example of Lee and Kirby kicking out ideas (seemingly) without even breaking a sweat.

#1 - Fantastic Four #49

Most fans call it the "Galactus Trilogy," but this is the issue at the heart of the series. The previous issue just set up the confrontation, and the next issue wrapped up the story quickly.

But here we have the FF fighting the impossible battle, as they fight God... I mean, Galactus, the world eater.

There's so much story crammed into this issue, it's staggering. We discover the purpose of Galactus and see an image of the destruction of the Earth. The FF attack and are immediately defeated. We meet the Silver Surfer (who recites one of the great lines in comics: "Nay, it is supremely credible!") The FF attack Galactus again (with somewhat better success). They fight the Punisher (not the guy with the skull on his chest). The Human Torch flies across the universe with the help of the Watcher. The Silver Surfer decides to attack his master! 

These days, it would take a 12-part mini-series to cover that much ground.

This was Lee and Kirby at their absolute best, combining action, cosmic concepts, romance, adventure - adding a lot of heart, and weaving it all into an amazing tapestry. 

It's a stunning body of work, and it's still my all-time favorite comics series. Classics indeed!

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Raid #1

   Based on the action movie of the same name, The Raid offers a look at events that happen during the second film in the series.

   Set in Indonesia, it shows us a city that is in a constant battle between vicious drug lords and heroic police operatives.

   Two of those operatives are actually in prison - one for overstepping the law, and the other is working undercover for mysterious reasons.

   That leads to some intense fight sequences, and the creative team does a great job of capturing the fierce battles that erupt.

   It's all fast and brutal with great visuals and no letup! If you're a fan of hard-edged action, you'll certainly enjoy The Raid.

Grade: B+