Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Hulk Annual #1 - What I Saved

    As I mentioned in a recent post, a few months back I sold three-fourths of my comic collection.

   But there were comics I saved, either out of sentiment, nostalgia or just because I couldn't bear to part with it.

   As I sort through those comics (once filed alphabetically, they're now jumbled up), I hope to write posts like this one, talking about "What I Saved."


   Up first is a comic I kept because of its cover - Hulk Annual #1.

   This is a comic I bought off the newsstand in 1968, and as a reader of The Incredible one's monthly comic, I couldn't resist this cover.

   I attended a talk by Jim Steranko several years back at a comics convention, and he talked about getting the assignment to do this cover - he was told, "We don't care what it is - we just need it fast." 

   So he turned this amazing work out in very short order and turned it in - but apparently the cover was a bit too intense, because they had Marie Severin redo the Hulk's face.

   Still, it was stunning - and the interiors were impressive too! Marie Severin and Syd Shores (with additional inks by "almost the whole blamed Bullpen") provided 51 pages of story, written by Gary Friedrich. 

   It dropped the Hulk into the Great Refuge where he found himself in a Civil War (of sorts) between the Inhumans (and Black Bolt in particular) and the forces of Maximus. So, lots of action, destruction and general mayhem in view.

   Marie's expressive art is always a treat, and if things get a bit rubbery in places, it was hard to complain since you got so much story for a mere quarter!

   I enjoyed (and read) this comic so much that that beautiful cover became detached from the comic. I'm afraid I spoiled the resale value at some point, as I committed the sin of using two small bits of scotch take to reconnect the cover - and hey, it's still hanging on there!

   How could I let this one go? (Obviously, I couldn't.)

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Grade: A

   

Monday, September 13, 2021

Marvel Studios’ Hawkeye - TV Trailer



   Marvel has released the trailer for the new Hawkeye series for Disney+ and it looks like a lot of fun!

   (And we could use something more lighthearted after the zombie episode of What If...?

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - Movie Review

 

   Back for a quick movie review! 
   
   My oldest son and I caught the newest Marvel movie - Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - and we both enjoyed it, with a few caveats.

   I've been a fan of the character since I picked up his first appearance in Special Marvel Edition in 1973. 

   Obviously, the film version had to make some changes - so gone is his costume and his "original" father, Fu Manchu, now replaced by a modern (and no longer offensive) version of the classic villain, The Mandarin

   There are lots of things to like about this movie, the most important one being: the actors are all terrific! Simu Liu plays Shang-Chi, and is charismatic, charming and very convincing as an action star. 

   His best friend Katy is played by Awkwafina, a heartfelt and very funny role, and Tony Chiu-Wai Leung is amazing as Xu Wenwu, the master of the ten rings.

   The story follows Shang-Chi, who's trying to build a life for himself - but he's drawn back into conflict with his father (who has an amazing backstory), and to ultimately discover the hidden secrets behind his mother's past - and a force that threatens the world.

   Along the way there are lots of great fighting sequences (those work best when they're done in the "real world" - not via CGI). There's lots of humor and some touching moments, as well.
 
   The film's only problem is that it tries to pack too much... well, stuff... into the story, especially in the chaos of the final act. (And like any first Marvel movie, there's always some origin-itis to deal with.)

   But it's a great start for the hero and there are plenty of plot threads to continue over into the next film in the series.

   It reminds me a lot of the first Black Panther movie - a film that breaks new ground, broadens the Marvel horizons, and plants many seeds for future stories - and is centered around a hero with amazing potential. 

   I'm also happy to finally learn the proper pronunciation of the hero's name - since 1973 I've been calling him SHANG ("HANG" with an "SHH" in front of it) CHEE, and only now do I find out that it's SHAUNG CHEE. You learn something new every day!

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Grade: A-

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Checking In After a Long Break

    So, it's been a while.

   I'm still technically on a break from the increasingly-inaccurately-named "Chuck's Comic of the Day" blog (as I have been for the last six months), but I hope to wrap that up in the near future - but your pal Chuck has been through some major changes since signing off back in February.

   For example: I sold more than half of my (not inconsiderable) collection of comics. I packed up my belongings, sold my house, and my wife and I moved halfway across the country.

   We were originally planning to do this next year, when I retired from my full-time job out there in the real world. We were going to move to a big ol' state where my son, his wife and our two granddaughters live (the name rhymes with Smexas) - but the real world complicated matters.

   The main problem was the rapidly escalating cost of homes in Smexas. At the rate they were rising, a decent home might be out of our price range by next year. 

   So we adjusted our timetable and bought a house now (and sold our previous house in record time - thank you, crazy housing market). That meant moving all our stuff, including way too many boxes of comics. The problem: our former house had a big, dry basement - our new home does not. So something had to give.

   My youngest son is a comics fan, so he walked away with the 10 or so boxes he wanted (with my blessing, of course). A friend had recently sold his collection to a dealer, and he kindly sent that dealer in my direction. The dealer made a very generous offer, and I accepted - two trips later, he had carried off about 80 boxes of comics and magazines and posters. 

   That left me with about 30 boxes of assorted treasures. (I'm considering adjusting the blog to focus on what I saved and why.)

    The move is done, though I'm still sorting through LOTS of boxes of comics and paperbacks and toys and God knows what else.

    And I'm still working, dividing my time between my new home and my old job (which means I'm flying a lot more than usual). 

   And then there's COVID.

   All of that combined made life complicated, so something had to give (several somethings, actually), and this blog was one of them. I do hope to return one day, and I apologize for dropping off the face of the blogosphere so abruptly - but as always, family comes first.

   So bear with me a while longer, and hopefully we'll get back to something resembling normal.

    And here are a couple of "instant" Movie / TV reviews to tide you over:

   "Black Widow" -  Loved it - worth the wait (and a great setup for future installments - or past ones).

   "Loki" - Terrific mini-series, nice and mind-bendy.

   "Free Guy" - Just saw it today - lots of good laughs in there (and one that got a big howl out of me - you'll know it when you see it). The story gets a little wobbly in places, but overall a fun film.

    Chuck out! (For now!)

   

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

"Invincible #5: “That Actually Hurt” - TV Guest Review

    Stepping back into the Guest Review spot is my pal Billy Hogan, who continues his reviews of the animated series based on the comic book Invincible:

"Invincible Episode #5: “That Actually Hurt”



   It's been a while since I had time to watch the next episode of this series on Amazon Prime Video, but I had taken a week's vacation, so took the time to watch the next episode. I wasn't disappointed.


   Superpowered thug Titan, who can transform into a rock-armored enforcer for criminal boss Machine Head, meets with various people who either threaten Machine Head's territory, or owe him money. The surviving Mauler Twin continues his work in his new lab, with much success.


   Mark Grayson continues to find his place as a superhero, but as the episode progresses, the double life of a hero puts a lot of stress on his relationship with Amber


   Omni-Man continues to train son Mark in superhero tactics, but wife Debbie continues to have suspicions about her husband, especially after finding demon detective's Darkblood's notebook, filled with clues about the crime against the Guardians Of The Globe at the end of the first episode. Eventually she finds a clue that makes her even more suspicious of her husband.


   Atom Eve also has drama, not only at home, but with the Teen Team, causing a lot of upheaval in her own life.


   Robot has a secret meeting where he offers a job opportunity.


   Eventually, Invincible meets a bad guy he first ran into in the first episode, who asks Mark for help to get his family out of a bad situation. Mark has to decide first whether to believe him, and second, should he help him, or should he concentrate on the big picture of protecting the entire planet.


   The episode ends with Invincible and the Teen Team involved in the biggest battle they have yet faced. Writer and co-creator Robert Kirkman crafted a twist ending I didn't see coming that might have major consequences in the future. He was a master at this with the INVINCIBLE comic book series.


   In the comic book's continuity, Titan was a minor villain, but with the animated series, he is taking his toys and playing with them in new and interesting way. The animated series is establishing itself as a strong series, able to stand on its own. It remains faithful to the spirit of the original comic book series, but continues to be its own unique story that brings me back for each episode. Even though I know how the story will develop overall from reading the comic book series, Kirkman and the animation team are playing with the characters in new ways that creates a new story in the Invincible Universe, or the Invincible of another dimension, to borrow a concept from superhero comic books.


   This episode still gets my top grade of a solid "A." This series continues to be for MATURE audiences only. If that's not an issue for you, I continue to recommend it.


Friday, April 30, 2021

Invincible Animated Series: Episode #4: Neil Armstrong, Eat Your Heart Out!


   Welcome back my pal Billy Hogan who continues his reviews of the animated series based on the comic book Invincible:

    The wife of Guardians Of The Globe member Red Rush hires Debbie Grayson, mother of Invincible hero Mark Grayson, to sell her home because she has decided to move back to Moscow. 

   Mark's relationship with Amber continues to develop as he learns how to navigate the superhero problem of having a secret identity.


   When Mark's father Nolan, aka Omni-Man, declines Cecil Stedman's offer of protecting a manned mission to Mars from the Martians, Mark decides to volunteer. His inexperience shows as the astronauts are captured under his nose, and the expedition has to make a hasty retreat from the Red Planet. The question is, did a threat to Earth hitch a ride on the spacecraft.


   While Mark is away, Nolan and Debbie take a brief vacation for some quality time after experiencing the stress of recent events.


   Throughout the episode, demonic detective Damian Darkblood has been continuing his investigation about the events involving the Guardians Of The Globe at the end of the first episode. 


   Cecil Stedman, head of the Global Defense Agency, has been conducting his own investigation, and his suspicions center on one person. But he finds a way to get Damian Darkblood out of his way so that no one or nothing can interfere with Stedman's plans. But Damian made sure his own investigation did not go for naught.


   The surviving Mauler Twin finds a place to build a new lab so he can clone another twin.


   At the end of the episode, we discover a secret about Robot.


   This episode uncovered a few hidden layers of a number of characters, revealing dimensions about them we weren't aware of before. These characters are becoming more complex and intriguing, and makes me want to hurry up and watch the next episode to see how they affect the story. 


   Robert Kirkman, writer and co-creator of the comic book series, is using the comic book series as a foundation for this animated series, but he's not afraid to continue playing with his characters and take them in different directions from the comic book story. That strategy makes the animated series new and fresh, hooking the viewer into staying along for a wild ride.


   It leaves me no choice but to also give this episode a solid A.


Saturday, April 24, 2021

Invincible: Episode 3: Who You Calling Ugly? - Guest Review



   Welcome back Billy Hogan with his review of the third episode of the Invincible animated series:


    We begin with a public ceremony honoring the Guardians Of The Globe, followed by a more private one with the families of the Guardians. There Damian Darkblood questions Nolan about the case involving the events involving the heroes at the end of the first episode.


   During the episode, Atom Eve discovers a secret about two of her teammates on the Teen Team.


   After the success the Teen Team had with the Flaxan invasion last episode, Cecil Stedman, head of the Global Defense Agency (GDA) tasks Robot, leader of the Teen Team, with putting together a new group of heroes to become the next Guardians Of The Globe. 


   After a series of auditions, some with humorous results, the heroes chosen along with the Teen Team are Monster Girl (who appears to be a pre-teen girl who can transform into a hulking monster, with an interesting twist to her power), Shrinking Rae (a female hero who can reduce her size), and Black Samson (an early member of the Guardians Of The Globe who left the group when he lost his powers but now wears a special suit that gives him powers).


   Meanwhile, Mark discovers some of the challenges of having a private life while being a superhero, when he begins a relationship with a girl from high school. He has to respond to an emergency alert from Cecil, along with Atom Eve, without revealing his secret identity to his new girlfriend. Invincible and Atom Eve face Doc Seismic at Mount Rushmore.


   The Mauler Twins, who were introduced at the beginning of the first episode, escape their GDA prison with a little inside help. The source of their assistance, when it's revealed, is a surprise. One question I have is how it is able to be hidden from Stedman, but maybe we will learn more details in later episodes. This plot twist is the first major one that significantly differs from the comic book. It shows that co-creator and writer Robert Kirkman continues to play with his concept of Invincible, and not just make what amounts to a “motion comic” of his comic book hero.


   The episode ends with demonic detective Damian Darkblood questioning Debbie about her superhero husband.


   This episode had more humor in it than the previous two. It continues to build an interesting mystery about what is going on with Nolan Grayson aka Omni-Man, as we continue to follow his son Mark's development as a superhero. 


   Nolan continues to give Mark some valuable advice about what it takes to be a hero, both as a public figure and someone with a private life and how to protect it. The ways the animated series differs from the original comic book don't stray from the spirit of the series, but makes readers familiar with the comic book, like me, feel like we're watching an entirely new story.


   I can't wait to see where Robert Kirkman, the creative team of animators, and the vocal cast will take us. 


   Once again this episode deserves a solid A.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Invincible Episode 2: Here Goes Nothing - TV Guest Review


   Back with a follow-up review of the animated series Invincible is our man Billy Hogan:



   The episode begins where the first episode ended, at the headquarters of the Guardians Of The Globe

   

   Mysterious troops enter to carry away the heroes, and Mark and his mother Debbie are informed of Nolan's injuries. Mark discovers that his superhero father was not only a member of the Guardians, but they also worked for the secret Global Defense Agency (GDA), headquartered under the Pentagon. 


   As Nolan recuperates, Mark, as Invincible, meets the Teen Team (think DC Comics' Teen Titans) and begins working with them, and discovers one member actually attends his high school. They are tapped by the GDA to replace the Guardians.


   During the episode the Teen Team attempt to fill the gap left by the absence of the Guardians Of The Globe. They are severely tested by the inter-dimensional invaders called the Flaxans, who attempt three separate invasions of Earth. 


   During their first invasion, Invincible is almost overwhelmed by the chaos of the invasion, and slowly takes his first steps in building his confidence as a superhero. With each invasion, the Flaxans become a greater challenge until the Teen Team is almost defeated by the Flaxans during their third attempt, when they receive a helping hand in turning the tide.


   As this is going on, literal demonic detective Damian Darkblood, voiced by Clancy Brown (who voiced Lex Luthor in the Superman Animated Series), begins an independent investigation about what happened to the Guardians Of The Globe. (I'm trying to keep these reviews as spoiler free as possible.)


   Also, as Nolan recovers, the GDA discover an old threat that Omni-Man faced in the past has returned, and Mark has to face him alone. The encounter is one of the most original I've ever read in a superhero comic book.


   Just like in the first episode, events in this one are familiar to readers of the Invincible comic book series, but are tweaked so that it doesn't feel like an exact recreation of the story onto the screen. 


   Mark is thrown into the deep end of the pool as a superhero a lot quicker than in the comic book, making his learning curve a lot steeper in the animated series.


   We get to know the other members of the Teem Team very quickly, and they soon become very familiar. They are led by Robot, who is able to analyze any situation and formulate a strategy to overcome the challenge. Atom Eve is able to manipulate matter and energy. Dupli-Kate, as her name suggests, can make multiple copies of herself very quickly. Rex Splode, like the X-men's Gambit, is able to touch anything and make it into a bomb he can hurl at his opponent.


   Watching this animated series adaption of one of my favorite comic book superheroes is like the story was boiled down to its essence, into a more intense story. 


   Pieces of the plot are familiar, but are tweaked enough that it's like watching a brand new story. 


   Invincible co-creator and writer Robert Kirkman continues to adapt his comic book superhero to fit the strengths of the animation medium, and I give this episode a solid A.


Monday, March 29, 2021

Guest Review: Invincible Animated Series

 

      My pal Billy Hogan sends along this guest review about the newest superhero-based animated series:

   When I learned almost two years ago that Amazon Prime was going to create an animated series adaption of the comic book series INVINCIBLE, I was very excited. 

   The comic book series, published by Image Comics, had ended earlier in the year, so I looked forward to watching the series. 

   The wait ended this past Friday, March 26, when it premiered. Right now three episodes are available: IT'S ABOUT TIME, HERE GOES NOTHING, and WHO YOU CALLING UGLY, and eight episodes are scheduled for the first season altogether. 

   The animated series was written by the comic book writer and INVINCIBLE co-creator Robert Kirkman. It is rated for MATURE audiences only because the superhero violence is very explicit at times.

   The star of both the comic book and animated series is Mark Grayson, son of Nolan Grayson, who is the superhero Omni-Man, and a member of the superhero group Guardians of the Globe (think the Justice League or Avengers, depending on your favorite superhero group). His father's superhero career is no secret to either Mark or his mother Debbie. Mark hopes to develop superpowers someday, but it hasn't happened yet.

   In the animated series Mark Grayson is voiced by Stephen Yeun, Sandra Oh is Debbie Grayson, and J. K. Simmons plays Nolan Grayson and Omni-Man.

   The first episode begins with an attack on the White House by the blue-skinned muscle bound Mauler Twins. Their attack is resisted by the Guardians Of The Globe. 

   Then we see what home life is like for the family of a superhero. We get plenty of tender family moments in this episode. When Mark finally begins to develop superpowers as a part of going through puberty, he learns that practicing them is a lot like learning to ride a bicycle; you fall down a lot. 

   Mark has to deal with some other issues that all superheroes do, like how do you come up with a good hero name, and where do you get a cool costume from. At the end of the episode we see the members of the Guardians in their private lives, until they are summoned to Guardians headquarters to face a surprise opponent.

   This episode takes scenes from among the first twelve issues of the comic book series to do an excellent job of introducing and establishing the characters, developing the plot, and laying the foundation for the rest of the episodes to build on. 

   The art style in the animation is a good match to the drawing styles of original INVINCIBLE comic book artist Cory Walker and his successor, Ryan Otltey. All of the voice actors did a great job of bringing a lot of emotion to their roles. 

   We get a great balance of humor and action as we watch Mark's struggles as both a high school student and a superhero. The end of the episode is guaranteed to hook you and make you want to watch the next episode.

   So I will have to give this first episode a solid A. If graphic violence and some mature language doesn't bother you, then you should enjoy this excellent adaptation of one of the greatest comic book superheroes I've ever read. 

   It doesn't hurt that Robert Kirkman is adapting his creation for animation, so I'm looking forward to seeing how INVINCIBLE translates to video.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Taking a Break

    Apologies for the lack of posts, gentle readers - your pal Chuck has been overwhelmed by some family issues (it's all good stuff, but very time-consuming), so I've had to take a bit of a break from the blog.

   I hope to get back to it soon - and welcome guest reviews, if anyone wants to contribute - but for now, the real world intrudes.

   A couple of quick comment / reviews to tide you over:

   - WandaVision was a lot of fun. Not perfect, but mighty close.

   - Zack Snyder's Justice League on HBO Max has been welcomed by many fans and is apparently better that the Whedon version of the film. I have no interest in devoting four hours to another grim DC film, no matter how sumptuous the visuals. It's a hard pass for me.

   - The new Justice League comic from Brian Michel Bendis is promising. So far.

   - Why are so many of Marvel's titles such grim slogs? Do the writers and editors not see the success of the films and their balance of humor, character and action?

   - Fire Power is an excellent series, well worth checking out.

   Let's be safe out there!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

WandaVision (Episode 4) - TV Review

 

   Well, I thought I had WandaVision figured out. 

   Each episode would be based on sitcoms from different decades - the first episode was the '50s, the second was the '60s, the third was the '70s - you get the idea.

   I figured we'd slowly get clues about the secret behind the story - but the fourth episode, happily, took an unexpected approach.

   We still don't have all the answers, happily, but the episode linked the storyline directly into the Marvel movie continuity, touching on events from the last Avengers movie.

   We also see some familiar faces (or names) and run into the organization known as S.W.O.R.D.

   It's an excellent change-up for the series, and makes it even more of a must-see event.

   We still don't know what's going on with Wanda and the Vision - but the suspense is wonderful! 

   (And to those complaining about having to wait a week for each episode - welcome to my childhood! It's also works for The Mandalorian!)


Grade: A

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Thursday, January 28, 2021

X-Men #17

 

   Up to this issue, writer Jonathan Hickman's been giving us an intelligent, unpredictable and complex new world for the X-Men.

   But with this issue, you get the idea that he said, "You know what? I just want to write an old school, classic version of an X-Men comic."

   And he delivers! This is a romp as Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm join a few of the New Mutants who now live on the alien Shi'ar planet - they're out to solve the kidnapping of the ruler of that race, which brings them up against a powerful enemy.

   The art is by Brett Booth and Adelso Corona, and it perfectly evokes that classic '80s / '90s era without satirizing it.

   The story also manages to evoke the best of the era - heroes being heroic, a cosmic challenge, twists and turns, humor - what's not to like?

   If you're a fan of the "good old days" for Marvel's Mutants, this is the issue for you!

Grade: A-

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Friday, January 22, 2021

Legion of Super-Heroes #12

 

   The newest version of the Legion of Super-Heroes has been a fun, high-energy version of the team that's always a thousand years away.

   It has suffered a bit from overcrowding, a problem that afflicts this issue in particular as storylines are wrapped up, villains threaten terrible destruction and all the heroes are on hand to do their part.

   While previous issues have been moving along slowly, giving the reader time to get his or her bearings, here the volume is turned up to "11" as the team must deal with the powerful sorcerer Mordru and the returned (and somehow still alive) Rogol Zaar, who once destroyed Krypton and now threatens to do it again with New Krypton.

   And somehow he's become a giant, for reasons that elude me.

    So there's lots of punching and throwing spells and general chaos here. It's frankly difficult to keep everyone straight.

   The issue is written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Ryan Sook and Wade Von Grawbadger. I'm a big fan of both artists, but this issue looks incredibly rushed - some pages are stunning, and others I'm hard pressed to figure out what's going on.

   From here the series jumps into the Future State storyline, which I'll be passing on. Aren't they already in the future?

   Overall, I give high marks for the series as a whole. This issue, though, was a bit of a stumble.

Grade: B

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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #1

 

   I've read (and enjoyed) the adventures of Iron Fist since his first appearance, but the main reason I picked up this issue is because of the writer: Larry Hama.

   I've liked Hama's work since I first saw it in one of the early issues of... Iron Fist.

   Hama started out as an artist - and a darned good one, too - but he eventually turned his attention to writing, making his reputation with excellent work on the original G.I. Joe comic with Marvel.

   He's known for clever, action-packed scripts loaded with great characters, and that's all in evidence here. 

   The story follows Iron Fist traveling via a mystic gate to the Heavenly Cities, where he finds a deadly attack under way, and a well-known villain (or two) on a deadly mission.

   It's fast and fun and feels like a classic Marvel comic (and boy, is that all too rare these days). 

   The art is by David Wachter with color art by Neeraj Menon, and it's classic storytelling, loaded with great action sequences. 

   The story is just getting going, of course, but with some great nods to the past and a major threat on the horizon, it a very promising start! 

Grade: A-

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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Blade Runner 2029 #2

 

    It's not easy to adapt a thoughtful, intense movie series into comic book form, but the creative team is doing just that with Blade Runner 2029.

   The series follows the woman named Ash (Aahna Ashina) as she tries to balance her job as a Blade Runner - tracking down the artificial humans known as Replicants - and her own feelings for her lover, Freysa, who's a leader in the Replicant Underground.

   Her search for information leads Ash to a "speakeasy" (of sorts) for Replicants, and she finds herself in a chase - one that could have fatal consequences.

   Written by Mike Johnson, the series does a great job capturing the grim world of the future, but keeps the focus on the characters and their relationships.

  The art is by Andres Guinaldo and color art by Marco Lesko, and it's powerful stuff - great environments, terrific character designs and smooth storytelling in evidence.

   It's a series that continues - and builds on - the film's vivid world of the near future.

Grade: A-

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Friday, January 15, 2021

WandaVision - TV Review

 

   After quite a drought, we finally have a new Marvel production to enjoy, as the TV series WandaVision started today with the first two episodes.

    It's a show steeped in mystery, as we find the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff) and the Vision enjoying married life in a reality based on '50s sitcoms - at least for the first episode. (By the second episode we're in the '60s.)

   It's not a new concept, but it's very well managed as the cast brings a typical sitcom setting and characters to life in a way that rings true - and still manages to sneak in some low-level superheroics.

   Obviously, "something is up" with all this - but we're just given a few clues about it all, which makes it even more enticing.

   It doesn't hurt that Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) have great chemistry together, and they're given a chance here to show their acting chops, fitting into each era perfectly with proper intonations and posture - even the way they walk is spot on.

   The rest of the cast is terrific, and the settings are spot on - it's obvious that the production team has done its homework on sitcoms.

   Of course, there are many questions still to be sorted - including how it is the Vision is still alive, given that he was killed by Thanos in the Avengers: Infinity War movie (and was not revived in Avengers: Endgame). 

   The fun, of course, is watching this all spool out in the episodes to come (and let me just add that I'm glad Disney+ releases these shows in weekly episodes - I'm not a fan of binge watching).

   So far, this is a clever bit of business. Highly recommended!

Grade: A

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Chris Claremont Anniversary Special #1

 

   Here's an unusual offering from Marvel - the Chris Claremont Anniversary Special.

   I'm not sure what anniversary it celebrates, because there's no indication anywhere in the issue, not so much as an editor's note to provide a reason for the tribute.

   Claremont is, of course, the writer who took over the New X-Men with the group's second issue and went on to build that title into the best-selling comic for decades. (That team was originally created by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum, of course.)

   This issue is a standalone story of sorts, focusing on New Mutants leader Danielle Moonstar not long after an Asgardian adventure left her with a winged horse.

   Hela, the ruler of Hel, challenges the young hero with a series of obstacles to overcome (across time and space), all of them centering around a classic New Mutants villain and a series of powerful Marvel heroines.

    It may be tad confusing for those who haven't read Moonstar's original adventures, but it's very much a typical Claremont story, focusing (mostly) on strong-willed women who will not be defeated, even while facing overwhelming odds and the nastiest of baddies.

    It's nice to see Bill Sienkiewicz providing some of the art - the chapters are divided between him, Sean Chen, Diego Olortegui and Brett Booth. Inking is provided by Marc Deering, Roberto Poggi and Adelso Corona. And lettering by Tom Orzechowski!

   So while it's nothing Earth-shattering or indispensible, this issue is a nice throwback to the days when the mutants - and Claremont - ruled the world of comics. 

Grade: B+

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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Event Burnout

    For quite a few years on this humble blog I've tried to cover the big "EVENT BOOKS" that Marvel and DC have rained down in ever-increasing numbers.

    As someone once said, "I ain't doin' that no more."

   I think it's safe to say that I'm suffering Event Burnout, and the industry is suffering from it, too.

   There are so many similar can't miss / must-see / bound to be a collector's item-type series that it takes someone with more patience than I possess to keep up.

   Just in the past months we have Death Metal, Future State, Endless Winter, Sword of X, Empyre, King in Black, Joker War and probably a couple of others I've forgotten about. Some crossover inside their comics "family" of books, and others cut across all titles.

   I know I'm a geezer, moving into my golden years, yelling at kids to get off my lawn - but I really have no patience to try to track down these massive storylines that weave between several books (most of which I probably don't buy anyway) - it's honestly become exhausting.

   So I give up! I've often thought that the comics companies seem to be trying to drive away the long-time readers, perhaps hoping the young readers will pick up the slack (assuming any are able to penetrate the massive obstacle of decades of continuity and thousands of supporting characters).

   The old political line is, "I didn't leave the (name of political) party, it left me." And sometimes I feel that way about comics - maybe the companies would be just as happy if I'd clear out.

   But the fact is, there are always books that appeal, and others that don't. 

   Right now, I'm looking for non-Event comics that tell a story with great artwork. 

   OK, end of rant.

Monday, January 11, 2021

The Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories - Guest Review

 

 My pal James Cassara is back with a Guest Review - this time with a holiday theme!  


   The history of holiday themed comics, specifically those marketed for and celebrating December 25, goes far back in the history of comic book publishing.  

   Some of the very best were the annual offerings from Dell Comics, written and drawn by The Good Duck Artist Carl Barks, and found in issues of Walt Disney’s Comics And Stories.  

   If you’ve never read “Christmas In Shacktown” I urge you to track down one of the many reprints available. I have no problem naming it one of the 10 greatest comic book stories ever created. 

   In conjunction with IDW Books, Craig Yoe, himself the co-publisher (along with his wife Clizia Gussoni) has designed and edited a solid collection of Christmas themed stories, dating from the 1940s through the early 1960s.  

   You won’t find any Carl Barks here - all the stories contained in this book are public domain - but you will find delightful tales by Walt Kelly, who later hit the big time with his comic strip Pogo, as well as famed Little Lulu artist John Stanley, who took Marjorie Henderson Buell’s creation to heights it hadn’t previously seen. 

   While the work of Kelly and Stanley are the highlights of this collection there are several that I was unfamiliar with that can easily hold their own. 

   Several tales are written and storyboarded by Kelly but finished by Dan Gormley, a longtime Dell and Fawcett workhouse whose career is sadly overlooked. His “Letter For Santa” originally published in Santa Claus Funnies from 1962 is a real delight.  So too is his adaptation of Clement Clark Moore’s classic “Night Before Christmas.” Gormley gives this familiar chestnut (roasting on an open fire?) a comical twist that had me laughing out loud. 

   Also noteworthy is a fun “Atomic Mouse,” a 1957 tale from Charlton Comics written and drawn by Al Fago, whose comic career spanned more than four decades. 

   While most of the strips are drawn in a bigfoot “funny animal” style there are two fascinating outliers. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” illustrated by DC Silver Age steady Mike Sekowsky and “The Christmas Story” illustrated by Alberto Gioletti, best known for his long tenure on Turok Son of Stone

   As you’ve likely gathered there are no superhero stories here, although Atomic Mouse certainly comes closest, but for those willing to widen their horizons and try something different this 170 page hardcover is a great place to start.  

   My only criticism, and it’s not a minor one, is the lack of historical background, something Yoe Books typically excels in. The original publication sources are only found on the indicia page, and in very small print. I only noticed them after several perusals of the book. I would very much have preferred them up front and center on the contents page.   

   Also lacking is any introductory material placing these stories into the context they deserve.  Don’t get me wrong, I greatly enjoyed the book but those absences felt like a missed opportunity.  

   As a reading experience The Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories gets a solid B+ but its lack of an introductory framework and the hard to find sources of original publication may knock that down a half grade or so. Still, it’s a great way to introduce younger readers to the joys of Christmas Comics, and you just might find them every bit as fun.  

   Christmas may be 11 months away but it’s never too early to start assembling your gift list!
 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Fire Power #7

 

    I was talking to an good friend this week and he asked, "What's good out there?" (In other words, what are the best comics to read.)

   I hesitated, because there aren't many comics out there that really fire up my enthusiasm. But there is one that I really look forward to every month - Fire Power!

   Written by Robert Kirkman and drawn by Chris Samnee with color by Matt Wilson, it manages to be a rollicking kung fu / action / adventure / story and a family drama.

   And if that sounds like an odd mix, I agree, but it also manages to be a fresh and fun take on those classic concepts.

   It focuses on Owen, who spent his young adulthood learning martial arts (and a special power) in a hidden temple. But these days he's a dad with a terrific wife, Kellie (a police officer) and two kids nearing their teens (or thereabouts). 

   Their happy lives in suburbia are cut short when they're attacked by members of his old clan - and his former master is (apparently) killed. So the family goes on the run and they're trying to decide what happens next.

   The comic is safe in the hands of two pros. Kirkman plays the story like a musical instrument, always keeping the reader involved, surprised and anxious to see what happens next. Samnee is quite simply one of the best artists working in comics today - each page crackles with energy and enthusiasm. 

   The series is, so far, a real treat, and one of the best comics on the stands. 

   Don't miss it!


Grade: A

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Friday, January 8, 2021

The Eternals #1

 

    Back to serve as a preview, perhaps, for the upcoming film (hopefully it'll be safe to return to movie theaters by the time it's released), Marvel has revived The Eternals in a new series.

   The focus here is on Ikaris, the point man and powerhouse for the race of immortal humanoids that were created by the incredible powerful (and gigantic) race known as the Celestials.

   Originally created by writer / artist / editor Jack Kirby, the series is much like Kirby's DC creation, The New Gods, in that no one other than the King seems to know how to use the concept. (Although there have been some fair attempts, including one by Neil Gaiman.)

   Also interesting to note that the original story, issued in 1976, had the Celestials arriving to judge the Earth - a process that would take 50 years. So just five more years to go!

   Anyway, on to the new series. It's a reasonable start (with a dandy cliffhanger ending), but it suffers a bit from a grim tone (though it does include some humor). There's a lot of ground to cover, and despite its large size, the first issue really just scratches the surface.

   The art is excellent and there's a lot of promise, so I'm going to hang with this one for a while. It's not Kirby - what is? - but it's a well thought-out take on the series, and it has potential. 

   Hopefully.


Grade: A-

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Thursday, January 7, 2021

Action Comics #1028

    Your pal Chuck is back from the holidays and ready to get back to work - so we'll start... with an ending.

   Writer Brian Michael Bendis has, sadly, just wrapped his run on the Superman comic - and this marks his final issue of Action Comics

   I know, he can be controversial, some of you don't like his work - but I'm a fan.

   His writing is always interesting, his characters well crafted and fun to read, and he manages to be innovative on a regular basis. Considering how long he's been in the business, it's an impressive run.

   And he's been an excellent fit for the Superman titles, which were long overdue for a dose of enthusiasm.

   In this final issue, with powerful art by John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson, he wraps up several dangling storylines and sets the stage for the next creative team.

   So we learn the fate of the Daily Planet (which faced termination after a scandal with the previous owner - and a hat tip to Matt Fraction for providing the solution in his recent - and excellent - Jimmy Olsen maxi-series), some answers about the (clone) Superboy's future, and the fate of the Invisible Mafia (the criminal group that tried to run Metropolis in secret).

   It all feels a bit rushed, but it's a satisfying ending to a terrific run on the book - one that presented great challenges to the title character (not an easy feat), managed to incorporate the vast Superman Family, made Lois Lane into a more interesting character, and made this series a "must buy" for the first time in a long time.

   (OK, I didn't like the part where they revealed that he's actually Clark Kent - a terrible idea that trashes a beloved tradition. No one's perfect.)

   Best wishes to the next team, whoever picks up after the upcoming "Future State" series that I'll be passing on. (I'll talk about why in my next post.)

   I look forward to whatever title Bendis works on next - there are plenty out there that need his inspiration!


Grade: A-

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