Friday, November 30, 2018

Fantastic Four #4

   Ah, now that's more like it.

   This issue of Fantastic Four feels much more like "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine!"

   It's not perfect, mind you. A bit of the issue is bogged down with some housekeeping. The team must return from the alternate dimension / universe / whatever where they've been trapped - an easy task for Reed Richards and his daughter Valeria (they have some nice father / child moments here).

   Once back, they find another team has taken their place - but what might have a been a lot of sturm and drang is instead handled in a clever, fun fashion.

   It feels much more like the balance of action, adventure, comedy and smart storytelling that we've been missing for far too long.

   Dan Slott provides a terrific script, and Stefano Casselli and Nico Leon provide lots of dynamic artwork (with a nice comedic touch on display).

   The series isn't quite there yet, but this is the best issue yet! 

   More like this, please!

Grade: A-


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

New Comics Day

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

- ACTION COMICS #1005 - The mystery of the Red Cloud!

- BOOKS OF MAGIC #2 - Beware an impatient magician!

- DAREDEVIL #612 - The end.

- Who are the Fantastix?

- HEROES IN CRISIS #3 (OF 9) - Why was Sanctuary built?

- IRONHEART #1 - Now in her own comic!

- MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #12 - Facing the Mole Man!

- TERRIFICS #10 - The final battle with Doc Dread!

- UNCANNY X-MEN #3 - The team, disassembled!

     And I also got these review copies:

- ALBERT EINSTEIN TIME MASON #2 - Into the past!

- BLACK BETTY #6 - A town against her!

- CHARLES VESS BOOK OF BALLADS & SAGAS HC - A new collection of the award-winning series!

- COME INTO ME #4 - The end of all flesh.


- ELRIC RUBY THRONE DELUXE EDITION HC - Collecting the series!

- EMMA G WILDFORD HC - Solving mysteries in the Roaring '20s!

- FAITH DREAMSIDE #3 (OF 4) - Perchance to dream.

- HARBINGER WARS 2 TP - The battle lines are drawn!

- OH S#!T ITS KIM & KIM #4 - The escape plan is put into action!

- PRINCELESS FIND YOURSELF #1 - Off to rescue Adrienne's sister!

- QUANTUM & WOODY #12 - Will they join the super-team?

- ROBOTECH TP VOL. 3 BLIND GAME - The latest collection!

- SEX DEATH REVOLUTION #2 - Meet Marcus, who's totally evil.

- THE ONCE AND FUTURE TARZAN TP - Set in the future, can Tarzan save a half-flooded London?

- VAMPBLADE SEASON 3 #7 - Fighting to get home!

- X-O MANOWAR #21 - The Brothers of the Bomb!

- ZOMBIE TRAMP ONGOING #54 - Where has her body gone?

     And that's it!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Quantum & Woody #12

   Most heroes dream of being invited to join the big super-team (depending on the comics universe in question).

   But that's only half true when you're talking about Quantum & Woody.

   When they're invited to join the Valiant super-team Unity, only half of the duo is happy with the idea.

   But before they can join they have to be approved by their new trainer, X-O Manowar - and he's not exactly thrilled with the duo or his assignment.

   This is a fun wrap-up to the latest incarnation of Quantum & Woody, as story threads are resolved and a new direction is put in place. 

   It's an entertaining title that focuses of humor (with some super-hero action tossed in for good measure), and hopefully we'll see their story continued in the near future.

Grade: B+



Saturday, November 24, 2018

Happy 100th to Gasoline Alley!

    It was 100 years ago today (Nov. 24) that writer / artist / genius Frank King's comic strip, Gasoline Alley, first appeared.

    Originally a gag strip about some guys who talked about their cars, it didn't take long for King to make a vital change to the strip - one night an orphan is left at the door of confirmed bachelor Walt Wallet.

   The baby was named Skeezix, and from that point on, the strip advanced in real time (not only the first to do so, but one of the few to this day). So we watched Skeezix grow up, fight in World War II, get married, and have kids. 

   Walt also changed - he married, had kids, and grew older. Eventually, they had to give up the idea of aging in real time - Walt would be about 120 years old by now, so while he's elderly, he (and the older cast members) have been frozen.

   But none of that is what made the strip a classic. It was great storytelling, touching moments, heartfelt interactions, genuine humor and terrific artwork (especially the brilliant Sunday pages) - all started by King, and continued when the strip was turned over to his assistant, Bill Perry, then into the brilliant hands of Dick Moores, and continues to this day with Jim Scancarelli.

   The strip survives because it tells a wonderful, human story about life, love and family. An American classic!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Guest Review - Murder Falcon #2

   Hey, it's Guest Review time! My good friend (who prefers to remain Anonymous) and I run into each other at the local comics shop from time to time - and it's always interesting to see which comics we both buy and which ones the other guy missed. Here's his review of one I missed. Take it away, Anon:

Murder Falcon #2
By Daniel Warren Johnson
Published by Image Comics

   I’ve always been fascinated with heavy metal music from the time that I moved back to the United States after living overseas in the late 1970s. 

   In those days, my musical tastes went little further than Abba, but all of my friends were listening to KISS, which seemed a far cry from “Dancing Queen” to me. The theatrics, the sound, the loudness of KISS were alien to me, but also really interesting.

   It didn’t take long for my musical interests to follow suit with my friends. From Ozzy Osborne’s on-and-offstage antics and operatic sound to the androgyny and clearly satanic (sarcastic eye roll) Motely Crue, I wanted to hear more of this music and understand this “heavy” music. I wanted to understand why it sounded that way and, more importantly, why it made me “feel” the way it did.

   (One more paragraph and I promise that I’ll to get to the review of the comic book.)

   A well-made documentary that I watched a few years ago described the sound of heavy metal as a feeling. The excitement that it creates. That the hairs stand up on your arm. It evokes a reaction, which is what makes those of us who like heavy metal tend to like it so much.

   And that’s what Daniel Warren Johnson’s Murder Falcon is all about.

   Like a lot of heavy metal music, the plot itself is pretty preposterous but fun to follow. The story follow a down-on-his-luck amateur guitarist who is linked through the dimensions to a butt-kicking monster who fights worse monsters and needs the guitarist’s music to power his abilities. And the monster’s name is Murder Falcon. With a falcon’s head, a robotic arm, and a costume from an early Rambo movie, the adventure begins. 

   In issue #2, we reconnect with one of the guitarist’s former bandmates, who is also needed as a part of Murder Falcon’s mission.

   As a writer/artist, Johnson’s story tugs at heartstrings and matches well with his frenetic, high-energy art. Simply put, it reads and looks very heavy metal, which makes sense. 

   It’s easy to dismiss Murder Falcon as an early Image hero-with-lots-of-pockets romp, but there’s more going on here. Murder Falcon is not for everyone, but it’s worth a look and I’m enjoying the heck out of it.

Grade: 9 out of 10


Thursday, November 22, 2018

Archie #700

   It's kind of a weird time for Archie.

   After more than 70 years of comics in a (for lack of a better term) comical format, Archie's comics have dabbled with a more realistic format - most successfully with the recent stories by writer Mark Waid - and then the Riverdale TV show became a hit, with its darker and adult / teen-focused tales of romance and danger.

   This issue brings on a new creative team - writer Nick Spencer and artist Marguerite Sauvage - and their style leans toward the TV show, and less toward the classic comedy format. 

   It's a good first effort, as it gives us a classic "end of summer" story. Most of the gang has been away from town for the summer, having adventures - so it's fun to see what they've been up to. 

   But there's a bit of mystery, too, as we discover Jughead's surprising new pursuit - and we uncover a big secret that Archie is hiding.

   I admit, I'm "old school" when it comes to Archie and his friends - I much prefer the classic approach (the one honored on that Mike Allred cover above), where the focus is more on humor and fun rather than soap opera-style shenanigans - but the "Archie" concept is certainly adaptable enough to work in this modern style (as well as for horror and any number of others).

   If you enjoy Riverdale - or the recent run by Waid - then you'll enjoy this.

Grade: A-



Wednesday, November 21, 2018

New Comics Day

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

- ARCHIE #700 - A new beginning!

- DOCTOR STRANGE #8 - Building an arsenal!

- TONY STARK IRON MAN #6 - A hidden enemy attacks!

- WEST COAST AVENGERS #4 - A giant-sized problem!

- UNCANNY X-MEN #2 - Back in action!

     And I received these copies for review:

- BLACK AF WIDOWS & ORPHANS #4 - Should the past stay buried?

- BLOODBORNE #7 HEALING THIRST - More horror and mystery!

- DARK SOULS OMNIBUS TP - Collecting the first three story arcs!

- DEVIL WITHIN #2 (OF 4) - The ghost children attack!

- EXTERMINATOR 17 HC - Warrior robots fight across the galaxy!

- FATHOM #5 - The quest continues!

- MCCAY HC - A tribute to the master of imagination!

- NEWBURY & HOBBES #3 (OF 4) UNDYING - London is in the grip of terror!

- QUANTUM & WOODY #12 - The major leagues are calling!

- RIVERS OF LONDON #2 (OF 4) ACTION AT A DISTANCE - A secret past revealed!

- SHADOWMAN #9 - Skeletons in the closet!

- SHERLOCK SEASON ONE BOX SET - Collecting the first three adaptations of the TV series!

- SOULFIRE #5 - More magic and wonder!

     And that's it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Life Is Strange #1

   Here's a comic that manages to live up to its title: Life Is Strange.

    It's a sequel to Square Enix’s critically-acclaimed videogame, and brings back Max and Chloe from the first game. 

   Max is a young woman with strange powers, as she's able to jump through time and change events from the recent past.

   In the game, she was forced to make a heart-breaking decision, and now she's living with the effects from her choice - and her friend Chloe may also be paying a price.

   The story is written by Emma Vieceli, with art by Claudia Leonardi, and it's impressive work, loaded with great character designs and well-developed environments.

   The comic almost reads like a YA novel, focused mostly on the relationships between the two main characters and their group of friends - but there's a lot more going on here.

   I haven't played the game, but so far, I'm enjoying the comic. Recommended!

Grade: A-


Monday, November 19, 2018

The Avengers #10 (#700)

   This is actually issue #700 of The Avengers, so congrats to the team on hitting that milestone.

   The series has been in a steady state of flux in recent years, and the lineup seems to change from issue-to-issue - and this issue promises more of that.

   My problem with this issue - and the ongoing story - is that it sets up a problem that's impossible to solve. It centers around Namor the Sub-Mariner, who has yet again declared war on the surface world, and has assembled an army of super-powered undersea agents to help him destroy any incursion into the oceans.

   So how is this resolved? Will Namor call off his war? (No.) Can the Avengers stop his attacks? (Not likely.) Can Namor actually destroy every incursion by the surface world? (Apparently.) What about ships crossing the oceans? (We need to read the fine print.) Why is Namor angry? (Same old stuff, I guess.)

   So the anniversary issue turns into a big knock-down, drag-out fight between three super-teams, all filled with angry, vicious characters. 

   It's fun and feisty, but it would be nice to have a little less punching and a few more character and story moments.

   (And the Thor acting like a teen asking a girl out on a first date bit is just silly.)

   I was hoping for more from a team that's hit such a major mark.

Grade: B-


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Mister Miracle #12 (of 12)

   I suppose it would be wrong to file a review that just said, "What the hell?"

   So I'll resist the urge. 

   This Mister Miracle limited series has been strange mix of nightmare scenarios, real-world struggles, throwback bluster and superheroics. 

   All have been presented without a clue as to which is real and which is not. Is it all a nightmare inflicted on Scott Free and his wife Big Barda? Is it a plot by Darkseid? Or Metron? Is there another explanation? 

   If you're looking for pat answers, you won't find them in this series. Instead, it offers some tantalizing clues and leaves it to you, dear reader, to decide what to believe.

   It's been interesting and compelling throughout, and certainly walks a different path from most stories based in Jack Kirby's Fourth World.

   (I often smile when I think, "What would Kirby think of this series?" I suspect he'd be happy his characters continue to entertain, and he'd be happy for the royalty check - but he might scratch his head at the storyline.)

   If you're looking for a funny, challenging and unique story, this is your Huckleberry.

Grade: A


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Fantastic Four #3

   This issue wraps up the opening storyline, bringing the Fantastic Four back into the mainstream Marvel Universe (for which we can all be grateful). 

   I wish the comic featured a better story, but to complain about it seems ungrateful - and it's not a bad story at all, it's just lacks the grandeur we'd expect from Marvel's landmark title, finally back in business after too many years.

   The story tries to be big. It has a vast number of guest stars, including everyone who has been a member of the team (however brief or tenuous), all gathered to fight an unbeatable opponent.

   But it spends so much time on side bits of business, getting the core four back together again, that the whole thing feels almost laconic, when it should have a sense of urgency.

   Next issue promises a fun event, as a long-awaited wedding finally takes place - and we should get some touching family moments.

   Again, I'm thrilled to have the series back - but it still hasn't reached its old heights yet. This is the World's Greatest Comics Magazine - fans deserve nothing less.

Grade: B


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

New Comics Day

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

- NEIL GAIMAN AMERICAN GODS MY AINSEL #8 - Shadow's past returns to haunt him.

- AVENGERS #10 - Earth's most hated heroes!

- DAREDEVIL #611 - Can Daredevil survive his final battle with the Kingpin?

- FANTASTIC FOUR #3 - Free-for-all!

- HAWKMAN #6 - Teaming up with the Atom!

- MAGE HERO DENIED #13 (OF 15) - Can Kevin rescue his family?

- MISTER MIRACLE #12 (OF 12) - The mind-bending conclusion!

- SUPERMAN #5 -Teaming up with Zod!

- THOR #7 - A tale of young Thor!

- UNCANNY X-MEN #1 - The return of the children of the atom!

   And I received these copies for review:

- ARTIFACT ONE #2 - A relic hunter makes a startling discovery!

- BLOODSHOT RISING SPIRIT #1 - A new series begins!

- BROTHER NASH TP - A trucker facing monsters.

- DELLEC VOL. 2 #3 - The Earth hangs in the balance!

- LIFE IS STRANGE #1 - An unexpected sequel!

- MILLENNIUM TRILOGY BOX SET - Collecting the Millennium Saga!

- MINIONS VIVA LE BOSS #1 - The mascots get their own comic!

- NINJA-K #13 - Who betrayed who?

- PRISONER TP VOL. 1 UNCERTAINTY MACHINE - Collecting the recent mini-series!

- ROBOTECH #14 - What's the truth behind SDF-1's exile?

- ROBOTECH ARCHIVES MACROSS SAGA TP VOL. 3 (OF 3) - Collecting the classic stories.

- SHADES OF MAGIC #2 (OF 4) STEEL PRINCE - The prequel continues!

   And that's it!

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Titan Passes! Farewell to Stan Lee

   It's heartbreaking to note the passing today of Stan Lee, 95, one of the most important figures in the history of comic books.

   He started in the business when he was a teenager, working as a gopher for his uncle, publisher Martin Goodman, at Timely Comics.

   Through the years his career survived the near destruction of the comics industry and by the late 1950s he was the editor and main writer for the company then known as Atlas Comics.

   He wasn't very proud of his work, as evidenced by his use of a pen name instead of his real name, Stanley Leiber. But with a new, creative approach to comics, he was about the rejuvenate the industry.

   Teaming up with legendary artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, they created dynamic new heroes for the company now known as Marvel Comics - the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Dr. Strange, the X-Men - and by combining action, humor and soap opera elements, they brought new life and new interest in the comics industry.

   Stan gets a lot of praise for his work as a writer and scripter, but he doesn't alway get enough credit for his work as an editor - he was able to urge the best work of their careers from everyone in the Bullpen, including Kirby, Ditko, John Buscema, Don Heck, George Tuska, Gene Colan, John Romita, Jim Steranko and Gil Kane (and many others) - and hired terrific writers to add to the mythos, including Roy Thomas. 

   But his most important work was as a promoter for comics. He created the attitude at Marvel that we were all part of the club. Stan was the funny, lovable leader of the gang, and we were all welcome. He became the face of the industry, and without his tireless promotion, pushing that product, I suspect comic books might long ago have gone the way of radio dramas.

   It occurs to me that he's probably the only comic book creator that almost anyone on the street could name. 

   At his advanced age and (apparently) failing health, his passing is probably a blessing - but it's a tough loss to bear. Stan was a true inspiration. For me, there are few writers who had as much influence or whose work affected me more. He crafted mythologies and stories that still resonate, and told stories I can almost repeat word-for-word. 

   He was a titan of entertainment, with characters and stories continuing long after he last provided their dialogue. It seems a fitting memorial that he leaves behind a billion dollar industry that produces several movies every year (in addition to TV shows, video games, books and, yes, comic books) based on characters that sprang from his work with talented artists over 50 years ago.

   I was lucky enough to meet him for a short interview in the late '80s and he was exactly what you'd expect: funny, quick, lovable, kind and brimming with energy. That's the Stan I'll remember and cherish. 

   At the end of the interview, I asked the usual question: "Is there anything you'd like to add?" He paused for a moment, leaned forward, smiled, and said, "Excelsior!"

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Infinity Wars #5 (of 6)

   Here's what's wrong with Marvel's comics: the writing has taken a back seat to the art.

   It's a common mistake - plenty of other companies have made it, and Marvel has made it before.

   To clarify, some editors apparently think the only important thing about a comic book is the artwork.

   Take the new Infinity Wars series, for example. The art is amazing. You get the sense that Mike Deodato, Jr., realizes that the story makes no sense, so he's trying to make up for it by pulling out all the stops with amazing, over-the-top imagery.

   But as they say in the theatre, "If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage."

   You can't expect a comic series or event to succeed if the story makes no sense. So this series has Gamora seizing the Infinity Stones, supposedly to free a fragment of her soul from the Soul Gem - but instead, she's embarked on an exploration of... well, some kind of barrier between realities. And she sent a number of heroes into the Soul Gem, where they find duplicate Infinity Stones. And she "folded" the universe, merging heroes together into new Amalgams (heh). 

   Why are these things happening? No idea. And that's just part of the crazy goings on here.

   Look, I've been reading comics forever, and I can't make hide nor hair of it - and this is not uncommon in Marvel's comics these days.

   Until they put the focus on hiring the best comic book writers available (as they did during the Marvel Knights line that hit 20 years ago), they're going to continue to drive readers away. We're here to be entertained, not insulted.

Grade: C



Saturday, November 10, 2018

Green Lantern #1

   I had high hopes for the new creative team on Green Lantern - but my feelings are a bit mixed.

   I think they're taking the right approach - taking the comic "back to the basics" is almost always a good idea - but things are still a bit muddled.

   The story starts on an alien world, where a truly strange member of the Green Lantern Corps is dealing with some deadly criminals.

   Eventually we shift to Earth, where Hal Jordan comes across a crashed alien spaceship (in a nice throwback to his origin) and goes in search of those same criminals - though I'm not sure how they ended up crashing on Earth. Seems like a mighty big coincidence.

   I like that writer Grant Morrison seems to be stripping this down to its essence - it's almost a police procedural. And hey, there's actual science on display here - that always makes me happy.

   I like Liam Sharp's art a lot, although he seems much more at home with alien landscapes (and grisly moments) than with the usual superheroics.

   There was a lot to squeeze into this issue, so hopefully there will be room in upcoming stories to make Hal more likable. He's very good at his job (Space Policeman), and he's cool and sharp (as we'd expect from a Test Pilot), but we need a reason to be in his corner. 

   So far, he's kind of a jerk. Here's hoping that part doesn't last.

   And while I'm putting in requests, I'd like to see some Earthbound adventures - he shouldn't spend all his time on alien worlds.

Grade: A-


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

New Comic Day

     A light week! Here's what I picked up at the comics shop today:

- CHAMPIONS #26 - A world of magic and glory!

- DOCTOR STRANGE #7 - Back on Earth!

- DREAMING #3 - Enter Judge Gallows!

- GREEN LANTERN #1 - Grant Morrison takes over!

- INFINITY WARS #5 (OF 6) - It's Loki's Avengers!

     And I received these review copies:

- DOCTOR WHO 13TH #1 - A new Doctor in town.

- NO ANGEL TP - Is she the child of a god?

- RAID #4 (OF 4) - The brutal finale!

      And that's it!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Faith: Dreamside #2

   The superhero known as Faith (does anyone call her Zephyr anymore?) tends to stick to standard hero fare - fighting her rogue's gallery, saving innocents in danger, that sort of thing.

   With this mini-series, she's moving into a different territory, facing a mystic danger - and being a smart hero (I do like the smart heroes), she goes in search of an expert on the supernatural.

   So we get a cool guest appearance by the sadly underused Dr. Mirage, as Faith's friend facing a danger that threatens her immortal soul!

   This issue provides the set-up for the major conflict to come, but it's a nice bit of character work on display.


Grade: B+


Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Classics - The Brave and the Bold #187

   I was surprised when I spotted this comic book recently in the back issues boxes at a local comics shop - because I had never seen the cover before.

   This issue of The Brave and the Bold is cover dated June 1982 - a time when I was mostly buying Marvel's comics, I must admit (hey, I was young and had limited funds).

   But if I had seen it, I would have snapped this issue up - because I was always a fan of the Metal Men, and I knew who the "What'sername" was.

   The thing that really stunned me about the cover was the idea that writer Bob Haney, who crafted B&B stories for many years, was actually clearing up a continuity thread.

   Haney was a terrific writer, turning out lots of great stories, especially when paired with legendary Batman artist Jim Aparo, but he was also well-known for not worrying much about continuity.

   (I believe he famously added Wonder Girl to the lineup of the original Teen Titans, not knowing that she was an imaginary character in Wonder Woman's comic.)

   But my surprise was wasted - Haney had ended his run on this series 30 issues before this. Charlie Boatner provides the answer to a long-running mystery around the Metal Men, and brings along some old foes for that team. 

   Batman doesn't get to do much here, and it's all resolved a bit too abruptly to be really effective, but it's a fun "done in one" issue, and worth it just for the nostalgic buzz.

Grade: B



Friday, November 2, 2018

West Coast Avengers #3

   I really want to like this series. I was a fan of the original incarnation, but they're not making it easy here.

   A lot of that is because the West Coast Avengers - so far - are not a great team.

   We have two Hawkeyes - both characters I like - but which one is the leader? It has America, a great character who provides much-needed muscle and a personality.

   Then there's Kid Omega (Quentin Quire), a telepath / mutant who's there to provide, I don't know, attitude?

   Gwenpool is the crazy kidder of the team (does it need more comic relief, given that it has the two Hawkeyes already?), and Fuse is, well, a bit of an enigma so far.

   It's a really odd mix, and it hasn't jelled at all - also not helped by the odd opponent they face (known as B.R.O.D.O.K., and no, I'm not kidding) who has unleashed destructive giants on Santa Monica.

   I liked the Hawkeye comic that this spins out of, but I'm hoping they can get this sorted out quickly - so far, it just isn't working for me.

Grade: B-



Thursday, November 1, 2018

Heroes in Crisis #2 (of 9)

   Writer Tom King seems to have a knack for getting my hackles up.

   He did it with the first issue of Mr. Miracle, and he's done it again with Heroes in Crisis.

   By the second issue of Mr. Miracle, my opinion started to turn around, and I now anxiously await the final issue of that series.

   So far, this series still has me in the "riled up" category.

   That's because it started off with my least-favorite technique for drumming up interest: with the death of key characters (including heroes and villains). 

   Then it adds an absurd premise: that a safe house exists where heroes and villains can go unburden themselves and discuss their darkest secrets. What hero would reveal his or her identity and discuss their darkest secrets in such a place?

   And then we have the mystery of who committed these murders - is it Harley Quinn (here back in her original costume) or Booster Gold (who's acting wildly out of character).

   So there's a lot to sort out, and confrontations to play out (also in very improbable fashion).

   I do like the art by Clay Mann and Travis Moore, but the story just feels like it's held together by scotch tape.

   There's still time for King to turn it around - but he's got a long way to go.

Grade: B-