Sunday, March 31, 2019

Dial H for Hero #1

   I have to admit that, as a young'un, I was a big fan of DC's Dial "H" for Hero series.

   It was a goofy concept - a boy named Robby Reed finds a dial that allows him to become a random, never-before-seen super-hero (with one notable exception) by dialing the word "H-E-R-O" on a mysterious dial.

   Now the series is back with a new kid - Miguel - who faces death after a bicycle jump goes wrong. 

   A mysterious dial appears, and an equally-mysterious voice urges his to dial "H" for Hero! 

   And that's when I started to laugh.

   Something tells me that most young people today would have no idea how to use s rotary phone (check out the videos on YouTube).

   Still, it's a fun start to this series, and the first superhero spotlighted is having fun at the expense of a certain era of comics.

   So far the focus is a bit scattered, but like before, I'm hooked on the H-Dial!

Grade: A-



Thursday, March 28, 2019

Detective Comics #1000

    Just in time for the Dark Knight's 80th birthday, the comic in which he first appeared - Detective Comics - hits issue number 1000 - so it's time for a party!

   And that's the approach, as they reeled in a small army of top creative talent and gave them each eight (or so) pages to tell a short Batman story.

   And it's a killer's row of talent here - on the writer side, it includes Scott Snyder, Brian Michael Bendis, Denny O'Neil, Kevin Smith, Paul Dini, Warren Ellis, Tom King, Christopher Priest, Geoff Johns, James Tynion IV and Peter J. Tomasi. 

   On the artist side, we have Greg Capullo, Jim Lee, Dustin Nguyen, Becky Cloonan, Steve Epting, Neal Adams, Alex Maleev, Kelley Jones, Alvaro Martinez-Bueno, Tony S. Daniel and Doug Mahnke (among others), plus assorted pin-ups and oh so many alternate covers (I chose the one by Jim Steranko as my favorite of the bunch).

   So is it a great issue? Well, it's a lot of fun, but I wouldn't quite go that far - it's hard to manage something truly memorable in short bites like that. My favorite is probably Paul Dini's little gem of a tale about the ultimate henchman, mixing humor and a rogue's gallery of cameos nicely.

   With that lineup of talent - and even at these prices ($9.99 for this massive comic) - this really is an outstanding issue, worth the cost of admission. Happy birthday, Bats!

Grade: A-


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

New Comics Day

   Today at the comics shop I picked up:

- ACTION COMICS #1009 - Who is destroying the secret organizations?

- DETECTIVE COMICS #1000 - Batman at 80!

- DIAL H FOR HERO #1 (OF 6) - Do kids today know how to use a rotary dial?

- DOCTOR STRANGE #12 - Who controls Earth's magic?

- FANTASTIC FOUR #8 - The Herald of Doom!

- HEROES IN CRISIS #7 (OF 9) - The killer revealed!

- LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: TEMPEST #5 - How do you stop an atomic bomb?

- SHAZAM #4 - Lost in the Wildlands!

- TERRIFICS #14 - The multiverse hangs in the balance!

  And I received these review copies:


- BREAKNECK #4 (OF 4) - Two hours to save Philly!

- FORGOTTEN QUEEN #2 (OF 4) - Love on the battlefield?

- FRIENDO #5 - An epic showdown in the desert!

- WASTED SPACE #8 - Paying a visit to an intergalactic black market!

  And that's it!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Submerged Vol. 1

      The mini-series Submerged manages the difficult task of combining a tense family drama with a mystical nightmare setting played out in the subways below New York City.

   It follows a woman named Elysia Puente who gets a desperate phone call from her brother, Angel - someone she's watched over since they were children.

   She tries to track him down to bring him safely home, and the trail leads her into a strange version of the underground subway system - but instead of people, Elysia finds monsters and other creatures - some helpful, others terrifying. 

   Written by Vita Ayala, this story gives you just enough information to keep you plunging along to the next harrowing incident, as more of Elysia's story - and her relations with her family - are revealed.

   The artwork by Lisa Sterle is raw and down-to-Earth, jumping between real settings and nightmare scenarios with ease - it's strong work, perfectly matched to the story.

   This isn't a story for young children - it's rough, sometimes brutal - but very real and often moving. 


Grade: A-


Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Life and Death of Toyo Harada #1

   The pivotal figure in the Valiant Universe has been Toyo Harada, a psiot who was born in Japan as World War II was about to begin - and whose life was altered forever by the atomic blast that ended the war and claimed the life of his mother - yet he somehow survived.

   His life work has been ending war and suffering, but not everyone considers him a hero since he has certainly done unheroic things to further his cause.

    But his life story isn't an easy one to sort out, which brings us to this mini-series dedicated to The Life and Death of Toyo Harada.

   It's a powerful start here as we jump from past to the present, following Harada's origins and his ongoing battles to - he claims - help end war and suffering. 

   But that makes him a target of international forces, and the resulting battle between armies and Harada's psiots is grim, violent and deadly.

   Good guy or bad, Harada's a fascinating character, and this series promises big events and bigger revelations.

   With strong art, a powerful script and fascinating characters, it's well worth checking out.

Grade: A-



Saturday, March 23, 2019

Captain Marvel - Movie Review

   This is the third Marvel movie where I thought, "They must be crazy."

   The first time was with Ant-Man. The second time was Guardians of the Galaxy. I thought, "There are comic book fans who don't follow these characters. How are they going to get movie fans to show up?"

   And yes, I thought the same thing about Captain Marvel. Here was a character with an EXTREMELY convoluted origin - was this going to be Marvel's first flop?

   There was a bit of a concerted effort to make it fail. Trolls rolled out bad reviews before seeing the film (they did the same thing with the Black Panther movie, with similar results). Commentators complained about the film being "woke" (is that a bad thing? Seems like there should be plenty of room for films of all stripes).

   At any rate, I followed my usual process of ignoring the trolls and going to see the film so I could make up my own mind. And guess what? Marvel proves me wrong again!

   This film cleverly fixes the origin story for Carol Danvers, gives us a younger Nick Fury (and Phil Coulson, for that matter), mixes in a solid science fiction story with more than a few twists (and some glimpses of the ongoing Kree/Skrull War), and loads in lots of action sequences and a fair dash of humor and heart.

    When we meet Carol (or Veers, as she's called) she believes she's a Warrior belonging to an alien race known as the Kree, and gifted with strange energy powers. 

   But an encounter with some Skulls starts to throw her history into doubt, as she learns more about herself - and a side trip to the planet Earth (in the 1990s) gives us more of her backstory.

   Brie Larson is terrific in the title role - tough, assured, funny, and taking no guff from anyone, she holds her own on the physical side of the equation, and adds plenty of gravitas as a strong female looking for answers.

   Samuel L. Jackson as Fury gets to show some depth (and even humanity) to his character (all while being a badass). Who knew that Fury liked cats?

   Jude Law is a mentor to Veers - but there's a lot more to his character than simply being a capable warrior.

   The movie is loaded with Easter eggs, from the name of her best friend's daughter to the movie Carol looks at during her "visit" to Blockbuster (it's The Right Stuff).

   It's not a perfect movie - it suffers slightly from "origin-itis," as it has to cover a lot of ground and explain the backstory for this corner of the Marvel Universe - but that's a minor quibble in a movie that's loaded with science fiction goodness and sets up all kinds of possible storylines for the future.

   And there's a powerful sequence in there that every young person should see - it's inspirational!

   Keep proving me wrong, Marvel - I love it!

Grade: A




Thursday, March 21, 2019

Savage Sword of Conan #3

   Now that Conan is back in the Marvel fold, they're wasting no time in making sure we have lots of barbarian action to enjoy.

   In addition to the regular title, we also have a color, comic book-sized title that revives the original magazine title, Savage Sword of Conan!

    That series is given over to random barbarian adventures, taken from different periods in Conan's career. (Is "career" the right word for a guy who is often on the wrong side of the law?)

   The ongoing series follows Conan's search for a hidden treasure, guided by a map that's been planted in his mind by a sorcerous encounter. 

   But that also attracts the attention of a powerful wizard and the small army that worships him.

   Throw in some harrowing battles and some nasty monsters and you have a rip-roaring Hyborian tale written by Gerry Duggan, with powerful art by the always-excellent Ron Garney, all wrapped in a cracking great cover by Alex Ross.

   What's not to like? Fun stuff (though maybe a bit too violent for young readers) - but for grownups, it's always great to see Conan in action again!

Grade: A-


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

New Comics Day

       Today at the comics shop I picked up:

- AVENGERS #17 - A new vampire world order!

- NAOMI #3 - What is her secret connection to super-heroes?

- SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #3 - Deadly catacombs!

- THOR #11 - War of the Realms prelude!

- WEST COAST AVENGERS #9 - The new Masters of Evil!

- WILD STORM #21 - Apollo and Midnighter are on the loose!

     And I received these review copies:

- ARTIFACT ONE #4 - A mysterious discovery!

- ATHENA VOLTAIRE #8 - The conclusion!

- BLOODBORNE #10 - The origin of Eileen the crow!

- DIRTY OLD TANK GIRL TP - A punk classic!

- DOUBLE JUMPERS FULL CIRCLE JERKS #4 (OF 4) - The shocking conclusion!

- GUNCATS #4 - Being tracked by hired guns!

- INCURSION #2 (OF 4) - An alien attack!

- LIFE & DEATH OF TOYO HARADA #1 (OF 6) - Can Toyo save humanity from itself?

- PENNY DREADFUL TP VOL. 3 - Adapting the cult TV hit!

- X-O MANOWAR #25 - Past mistakes return to haunt Aric!

- ZOMBIE TRAMP #57 - Foil enhanced!

     And that's it!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1

   I'm not a fan of comics restarting with a new issue #1, though I admit that - sometimes - I use that as a jumping-on point.

   (It is also true that I sometimes use it as a dropping-off point.)

   I've read the early issues of the modern version of Ms. Marvel, and I've enjoyed her appearances in The Champions, so I decided to give the new "Magnificent" first issue a shot.

   What you get here is a solid introduction to the character (including her efficient origin story), a few super-powered menaces to deal with, and a shocking new mystery.

   It's all handled with great economy and a minimum of wasted effort, and the art is dynamic - but I could have used some setup info and a few introductions (characters come and go without introduction - I guess I'm supposed to know who they are). 

   Overall, it's a good - though not great - (re)start to the series.

Grade: B


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Superman #9

   From time to time, comics written by Brian Michael Bendis take an odd turn.

   I think it's something he picked up from reading classic Chris Claremont X-Men stories, where the odd dream or fantasy sequence would be dropped in for no apparent reason.

   This issue starts off with one of those, with the only apparent reason being to give artist Ivan Reis a chance to draw a zillion characters (not that I'm complaining).

   The rest of the issue is given over to the slowly-rolling-out explanation for where Superman and Lois' son, Jon, has been while touring the universe with somehow-still-alive grandfather Jor-El, and why he's suddenly aged several years (he's now more of a Superteen than a Superboy). (The excellent art on that part of the story is by Brandon Peterson.)

   The story of his adventures is a cracking good one, as he's faced with overwhelming odds - and must find a way out of a deadly trap.

   I've had doubts about the wisdom of injecting a super-son into the Man of Steel equation, but so far it's been a very entertaining turn.

Grade: A-


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Avengers 4: Endgame - Movie Trailer

   They've released a new trailer for the upcoming Avengers 4: Endgame movie, and to say it looks great would be an understatement. 

   I also appreciate that they're not giving much away here - nothing worse that a trailer that spoils the entire movie, sez me. 

   Check it out:

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

New Comics Day

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

- HAWKMAN #10 - Facing an army of Deathbringers!

- TONY STARK IRON MAN #9 - The reality of it all.

- SUPERMAN #9 - How did Jon Kent survive?

     And I got these review copies:


- LIVEWIRE #4 - Fighting to stay alive!

- PRISONER TP VOL. 2 SHATTERED VISAGE - Collecting the recent mini-series!

      And that's it!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Doomsday Clock #9 (of 12)

   Reading Doomsday Clock continues to be... a challenge.

   That's because, while the stakes are high, it feels like fan fiction - which is to say, that nothing that happens really matters.

   The concept is compelling - that the Watchmen characters have moved over to the DC Universe and - especially in the case of the seemingly all-powerful Dr. Manhattan - are manipulating events for mysterious purposes.

   This issue features a major confrontation as virtually all of DC's heroes travel to Mars to track down the force that's been manipulating their reality - and as a result, the DC Universe is becoming darker all the time.

   So you have a comic with terrific art by Gary Frank, and a compelling story by Geoff Johns. When I pick up an issue, I read it as soon as possible.

   But I can't really say I'm enjoying it. It feels like a pale riff on the original Watchmen - like it's copying the style without managing the substance. And I'm not sure I like what it's doing to DC's Universe (but then, I've been feeling that since the whole "New 52" started).

   I'll keep reading, but I can't exactly recommend this series. 

Grade: B


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

New Comics (and an Apology)

    Apologies for the total absence of posts this week - I've been absolutely swamped with a personal project, but things should be back to normal (whatever that is) any minute now. Thanks for your patience!

    Anyway, I did find time to hit the comics shop, where I picked up:

- AVENGERS #16 - War of the Vampires continues!

- CONAN THE BARBARIAN #4 - The life and death of Conan continues!

- DOOMSDAY CLOCK #9 (OF 12) - What secrets does Dr. Manhattan know?

- GREEN LANTERN #5 - Why is Hal joining the Blackstars?

- PAPER GIRLS #26 - Back for more!

- YOUNG JUSTICE #3 - Facing Dark Opal on Gemworld!

    And I received these review copies:

- ABERRANT #5 - Saving the life of a murderer?

- ASPEN VISIONS SOULFIRE HEART OF ETERNITY #1 - The latest vision of a different world!

- ATHENA VOLTAIRE #7 - What lurks in the Ghost Caves?

- DOCTOR WHO 13TH #5 - A new story arc!

- DOUBLE JUMPERS FULL CIRCLE JERKS #3 (OF 4) - A video game villain in the real world!

- GUNCATS #3 - The hunter becomes the hunted!

- ROBOTECH #18 - The SDF-1 tears itself apart!

- SHADES OF MAGIC TP VOL. 1 STEEL PRINCE - Swashbuckling adventure and gritty fantasy awaits!

- TANK GIRL ACTION ALLEY #3 - It's an origin story!

- TYLER CROSS ANGOLA HC - A '50s gangster thriller!

- ZOMBIE TRAMP #57 - There's a new Tramp in town!

    And that's it!