Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Comics Today

Here's today's reading material:

- Batman Inc. #13 - The brutal end!

- King Conan #3 - Lockin' lips with Zenobia!

- Daredevil #29 - Deathtrap at the courthouse!

- Executive Assistant Assassins #13 - Death and destruction.

- FF #10 - Strange and stranger!

- Flash Annual #2
- Fast friends!

- Guardians of the Galaxy #5
- Gamora takes on an angel?

- Hulk #11 -An Agent of T.I.M.E.?

- Tom Strong and the Planet of Peril #1
- Looking for the ultimate cure!

- Uncanny X-Men #9 - A traitor to the cause?

- X-Men #3 - I still say it should be called "X-Women."

And that's it!

The Classics - Tales to Astonish #60

In the history of comics, it's typical for more than one comic book character to appear in an anthology title, but I think Marvel was the first to make extensive use of the "split" comic, where two characters who have little in common share the issue equally.

Part of the reason was because Marvel was limited in how many comics it could get distributed each month. A split comic gave the reader two characters to choose from - if he or she didn't like one character, perhaps they'd like the other.

There were three comics that featured a double-billing: Tales of Suspense hosted Iron Man and Captain America; Strange Tales featured the Human Torch (later replaced by Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD) and Dr. Strange; and Tales to Astonish featured Giant-Man and, starting with this issue in 1964, the Hulk.

Sadly, the stories didn't always live up to the promise. The Giant-Man story in this issue, for example, is mighty weak. An FBI Agent is captured by the Commies, so Giant-Man races to the rescue. Along the way he has to fight a small army of intelligent gorillas - and that's all you need to know. It's not Stan Lee or artist Dick Ayers' finest moment.

The Hulk story is only a little better - thanks in no small part to the classic team of Lee and Steve Ditko. The story focuses on a new invention by Bruce Banner - an indestructible suit of armor that is hijacked by a spy. Can even the Hulk stand against a creature that can't be hurt? But because of the page limitations, the story is just getting going when we get to the "To Be Continued" line.

As a kid, I loved the split books, and they're still a nostalgic treat. But as a grownup, I find I don't care for them as much. Ten pages just doesn't give the story much time to get going, and the books didn't really take off until the continued story became a common storytelling tool.

But even if the stories were shaky, the characters were wonderful - I wish Giant-Man and the Wasp will one day receive the kind of care and storytelling that they deserve.

Grade: C+


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fathom #1

This is the fifth issue that's labeled "#1" for Fathom, as the ocean-based heroine gets a (more or less) fresh new start.

Now living on dry land, she dedicates herself to using her powers to help others - for example, she's quick to the scene when an oil platform ruptures and spills a disastrous amount of oil into the ocean.

She resolves the problem with a method that would certainly come in handy in the real world.

We also see some of the other temptations Aspen Matthews must face, and see that she's taking charge of her own life.

That leads her to confront a huge, potentially deadly mystery - and run into some old enemies. (Or are they friends?)

It's a evenly-paced issue that takes its time, sets the stage quite well and launches into the next adventure.

The art by Alex Konat is lovely - both the title character and the lovely watery environments.

So, a good start to this series about a sexy and powerful woman, and a good jumping-on spot for new readers.

Who could ask for more?

Grade: A-


Monday, July 29, 2013

Young Avengers #9

If you're looking for a team comic that's definitely not playing by the standard rules, then Young Avengers is a good choice.

It's fast-paced, clever and funny and you really don't know what's going to happen next - and that makes it a lot of fun!

The story finds the team crossing realities (most of them are dystopian, natch) in search of a former ally who has apprarently turned against the team.

Writer Keiron Gillen keeps the patter crisp and clever and the story doesn't slow down (or run out of surprises) from start to finish.

I doubt this is a book for everyone - new readers might find keeping up with all the characters and references a bit difficult, though not impossible.

My only beef is with the final "shock" page - it seems to arrive from left field, and feels like a cheap attempt to ignite controversy.

That quibble aside, this continues to be a fun series, one well worth following.

Grade: A-


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Batman Superman #2

Greg Pak is an excellent writer, and one of his best features is that even when you think you know where he's going, you don't know where he's going.

And that's a good thing! It keeps the reader on his or her toes.

This issue of Batman Superman seems to be playing a time-travel game, as we see Batman and Superman from early in their careers apparently traveling through time to meet what we might expect to be their modern-day counterparts.

But it ain't necessarily so. As we quickly learn, things are not what they seem, and there are more than a few surprises for our heroes.

Just seeing the contrast between the young and more modern heroes is fun, but the added twists and turns make it that much more entertaining.

The art by Jae Lee isn't a mainstream comics style, but it's a delight for fans of his unique, extraordinary artwork. I'm really enjoying his efforts here (especially since he drew the entire issue this time).

So we're still waiting to see where all this is going, and to see the mysteries resolved - but so far this new series is a heck of a lot of fun!

Grade: A-


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Rocketeer & The Spirit #1

Crossovers can be a bit of a mixed bag, but when they work, they can be a lot of fun.

So far, this one is working nicely. (Of course, it features two characters I love.)

It doesn't hurt that Rocketeer & the Spirit: Pulp Friction includes some wonderful characters, as the casts from both series collide (literally) in this mini-series.

Mark Waid creates a dandy little mystery to lure The Spirit, Commissioner Dolan and Ellen to Los Angeles, where they run into Cliff (Rocketeer) Secord, Peevy and Betty.

The heroes "meet cute" (natch), fight and then team up - but it all happens in a fun, clever way.

Kudos also to the legendary Paul Smith, who provides art that manages to feel Eisner inspired without being a direct copy. His women are sexy, his men heroic (or comical), and the storytelling clear and clean.

So far the story isn't really styled like a Will Eisner / classic Spirit story - it's more of a straightforward, Rocketeer-style superhero adventure.

So far, I'm enjoying it - the series is off to a fun start!

Grade: B+


Friday, July 26, 2013

New Avengers #8

It's true that no one currently working in comics (that I can think of) does cosmic as well as writer Jonathan Hickman.

But it looks like he's about to run into a classic roadblock - namely, the dreaded event crossover.

He's been building a world-shattering series in New Avengers about alternate realities colliding, forcing the team to make some difficult, life-and-death decisions on a grand scale.

But now, just as that story is heating up (as are tensions between the Black Panther and Namor - Game of Thrones has nothing on these two), here's the latest event - Infinity - to draw attention and amp up the tension.

But I'm not at all worried about the disruption, because Hickman is also writing that series.

Gripes aside, this issue gets the series off to a tantalizing, exciting start, as key members of the New Avengers find themselves confronted by some mysterious emissaries from who-knows-where.

It's fresh, it's fun, and so far - it's not to be missed.

Grade: A-


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Justice League Dark #22

One of the oldest tricks in the "comic book event" playbook is to thread the story through several different issues, forcing the reader to buy comics he or she wouldn't pick up otherwise.

I generally don't fall for that sort of thing as a general rule - I just keep buying the same titles I usually buy and sort out the story as best I can.

I made an exception with this issue of Justice League Dark for a couple of reasons: the title misses making my regular purchase list by a thin margin; and this event actually looks like it might be worth following - at least through the Justice League titles (I wouldn't buy another issue of this version of Phantom Stranger on a bet).

Thankfully, the issue (written by Jeff LeMire) is a lot of fun, as it mixes and matches the heroes from all three Justice League teams. It's sort of a different take on the classic "bring teams together and break them up into groups to fight the bad guy" routine that was a staple of the original Justice League comics.

The art by Mikel Janin is quite good, as he manages a small army of heroes and keeps them all distinct and the action clear.

This event continues to pick up steam, after a weak start in the first chapter. Now we have Superman struggling to solve the mystery behind his actions, the search for the mysterious woman known as Pandora, and the machinations of a mysterious villain.

So far, so good.

Grade: B+


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New Comics Today

Here's what I picked up to read today:

- Aquaman #22 - King vs. King!

- New Avengers #8 - King vs. former King!

- Batman Superman #2 - Time jumping - or is it?

- Captain America #9 - Almost over.

- Doomsday .1 #3 - New York, New York.

- Fathom #1 - A new beginning.

- Flash #22 - A new speedster?

- Hawkeye Annual #1 - Madame Masque - and the other Hawkeye.

- Journey Into Mystery #654 - The next-to-the-last issue.

- Justice League Dark #22 - Chapter 3 of the Trinity War.

- Rocketeer / Spirit #1 - Now that's a team-up!

- Wolverine and the X-Men #33 - Roughhousing at school!

- Young Avengers #8 - What a strange trip!

And that's it!

The Classics: Tales of Suspense #73

It's amazing to realize that I bought this comic 47 years ago - and I remember that day.

I was riding back in the car from my Grandmother's house with my Mom and I asked her if I could stop at our hometown newsstand to buy a comic. I remember finding this issue of Tales of Suspense on the spin rack and being captivated by the cover, which was by an artist I didn't recognize.

Don Heck had been drawing Iron Man almost non-stop since his first appearance (Steve Ditko drew a few issues along the way, among others), so it was a bit of a shock to find a new artist - some guy named Adam Austin.

I loved his artwork. It had a realistic edge to it, a fluid style unlike any other artist in the business. Little did I know that the artist was operating under a pen name - it was Gene Colan tackling one of his first superhero titles (I think).

He was a natural, with a cinematic, exciting style that fit right into the Marvel Universe.

The story by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas wasn't quite up to the standards of the art - it's a soap-ish tale that has a depowered, injured Iron Man going up against a vengeful Black Knight. The bad guy had a great look, but didn't really provide much of a threat.

I believe this was the character's final appearance (in action) as a villain - he'd be replaced by a heroic version of the character.

The second story in this split book featured the second chapter in a three-part story pitting Captain America against the menace of the Sleepers, which were giant robots left behind by the (presumed dead at this point) Red Skull.

The Sleepers were a terrific menace that would return several times, but never in a better, more edge-of-your-seat story than this one. It's an over-the-top tale that only Stan Lee and Jack Kirby could create.

The art features George Tuska inking over Kirby's layouts, and for those (like me) who are fans of Tuska, it's a real treat.

So not an incredible issue, but one seared into my memory, thanks to a powerful cover, a great new beginning for Iron Man, and a dynamic, classic adventure for Cap.

Thank goodness Mom decided to let me go to the newsstand on that wintry day in 1965!

Grade: B+


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fathom: The Elite Saga #5 (of 5)

It must be Fathom month for Aspen Comics, as this issue wraps up The Elite Saga, and Wednesday sees the publication of a new series starring the character.

This mini-series seems to be an attempt to wrap up some long-running storylines with a bang. It brings together Fathom and the warrior Kiani as they team up to try to rescue an infant - Killian's child - from a monster.

And that's my two-fold problem with the issue. There's lots of action and high-stakes fighting going on - but I really don't care for stories that put infants in danger (it's a pet peeve), and there's a lot of that going on here.

The other problem is that Kiani does most of the heroic heavy lifting - Aspen doesn't really do much of anything. Isn't that her name over the title?

Those minor gripes aside, it's a solid action issue that sets up the next round of adventures.

The art by V. Ken Marion and Mark Roslan is quite good, with strong layouts, good character designs and lots of good girl art on display.

Fathom is Aspen's longest-running character, and the next issue - costing only a dollar - promises to be a great jumping-on point for new readers who might be lost sorting out the large undersea cast.

Grade: B


Monday, July 22, 2013

Mail Call

Here's an interesting email we received the other day (as always, you can send any comments along by the link at the bottom of each post, or email us at

This email is from Erik:
As a cover collector, and not so much of a comic reader, I know this question doesn't really apply to just the cover art, but, would you say that the comics in your blog that have multiple blog entries are the better comics to collect?

I am looking for comics (Like Saga 1,2 & 3) that may go up in value over the next 5-20 years. I know it's hard to guess, but I would imagine the comics that have only one review from you are probably not the best to collect since you didn't continue to review additional comics, right?

I also read your blog about Wonderland, which is logical to assume that most of the books probably are the same scantily clad women in a non-backstory storylines. From my experience seaching online, I know that the more nudity on a (girl) cover, the more people tend to spend to buy that comic. However, I am not just a good girl/bad girl comic collector. I have many Superman, Spider-man, Spider-girl, Supergirl, Justice League, and a spattering of other, bigger name, comic character books in my collection.

To end this rant, I guess my two questions are:

1. What would you say are the more valuable comics to collect?
2. Are you able to tell me the top-rated comics in your blog without me having to click each item, or would that be difficult?

Don't go out of your way to do back research for me, I was just wondering where my focus should be. I buy mainly on eBay, new editions, backed and boarded.

Thanks Chuck.

P.S. I'm going to try to follow your blog each day now if I can.

Thanks for the email, Erik. I'm not the best one to provide advice about the value of comics - I just buy the ones I want to read. I never really got much into the speculation end of the hobby, although several friends have dabbled in it.

For that reason, I wouldn't judge what comics will increase in value just by the reviews on this blog. I tend to review the comics I'm interested in, not ones that are necessarily the most collectible.

If there's a secret to picking what comics will increase the most in value, I'm not sure what it is. It's a bit of a gamble to try to find a winner, like, say, Walking Dead. (I wish I'd bought 10 copies of that first issue.)

Your best bet is to watch for the issues that become fan favorites - especially ones published by the smaller companies. Smaller print runs means the issue is more collectible - if it catches on and becomes popular. If it doesn't, then the comic probably won't be worth much.

Saga seems like a good bet to keep growing in popularity, but I'm not sure I can point to any others off the top of my head. Just not my areas of expertise, I'm afraid.

And you're right, there are plenty of companies that have strong sales with covers featuring good girl or bad girl art - but with the market flooded with such comics, I'm not sure what the long-term value of them will be.

As for your second question, I don't index my comics by ranking, except at the end of the year, when i run my "Top 10" list (with honorable mentions) - the comics on that list all received an "A" or "A+" score (with a few "A-" grades in there).

Hope that helps, and thanks for the kind words!

Red Sonja #1

I was a big, big fan of Red Sonja when she first appeared in the Roy Thomas / Barry (Windsor) Smith version of Conan the Barbarian.

She was a tough, smart character who was a match for the Cimmerian.

But when she traded in her chain mail shirt for a chain mail bikini, it was more difficult to take the character seriously.

I've followed her adventures off and on in the years since, but when a new version of the character was promised, written by Gail Simone, I knew I'd have to give it a try.

And I'm glad I did! It's a well-crafted first issue that provides an action-packed introduction to the character, a glimpse into her past, and a chance for her to display her martial abilities, tempered by loyalty and a good heart.

The dialogue is sharp and the story includes a good dose of humor - and it's compelling, as Sonja allies herself with what seems to be a lost cause.

The art is by Walter Geovani (with colors by Adriano Lucas), and it's quite good, with strong layouts and good character designs.

So it's a good start to this series. I expected that this would be the only issue of this series I'd be picking up, but Simone's story has me hooked - it has me back in the "Red Sonja fan" category again.

Grade: A-


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Batman '66 #1

It's probably difficult for modern comic fans to understand how the original Batman TV show could have been a hit.

The show was campy and often silly, loaded with bad puns, crazy characters, unusual camera work, over-the-top fight sequences (each augmented with on-screen, lettered "sound effects") and loads of bright colors.

But it was fresh and new, a show unlike any other. Adults enjoyed the zany nature of the series, and kids enjoyed the adventures.

At 10 years old, I was the perfect age to be a big fan the show. (The Golden Age is 10, as Don Thompson always said.) Even then, I knew this was not a "true" version of the real Batman (that being the one in the comic books) - this one was much sillier.

But for kids who loved comic books, the series was a dream come true. Outside of reruns of the original Superman TV series (also corny but fun), there wasn't much evidence of superheroes outside the pages of comic books.

Here we had a hero, facing situations similar to the comics (if the dialogue was quite different) driving an awesome Batmobile, fighting the villains from the comics - it was fast, funny and a breath of fresh air.

I remember sitting in a movie theatre when the feature film version of Batman was released, and when Batman first appeared on the screen, we in the audience (made up mostly of fellow 10-year-olds) cheered and clapped for our hero.

To this day I enjoy catching the occasional episode, and I look forward to the eventual release of the series on DVD.

Which brings us to this comic, the first (aside from a few gags here and there) to adapt the TV show characters back into a comic book.

This issue does a pretty good job capturing the feel of the original series, with writer Jeff Parker capturing the "voices" quite well.

Artist Jonathan Case also does a solid job of recreating the look of the series and the not-quite-right costumes from the TV show.

All told, the issue is a pleasant reminder of a happier time, when the Dynamic Duo were national icons - and I waited desperately for the next episode, to see how they'd escape from the latest diabolical death trap.

Thanks for the nostalgic buzz, DC!

Grade: B+


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Guest Review - Dark Nights #1

Today's Guest Review is courtesy of Glen Davis, who gives us a look at a new title featuring some classic pulp characters:

Dynamite is having success with its pulp properties, and what is more natural than to team them up?

Michael Uslan writes the first issue of Dark Nights in a style similar to the one Roy Thomas used on the seminal All Star Squadron series back in the '80s, rife with historical figures and liberal use of end notes.

The story starts at the tail end of WWI. The Shadow, then known as the spy, Dark Eagle, is returning to the United States after a successful assignment in Russia. He's obtained the girasol.

Then we jump ahead in time to the late 1930s. President Roosevelt wants Britt Reid (The Green Hornet) and Lamont Cranston to work together to foil a plot with tentacles in Detroit and New York. It seems that Margo Lane and Lenore Case have a troubled history together.

A good start to a tantalizing series.

Grade: B+


Technical Difficulties

Under the heading of "Things Only Chuck Cares About," you may have noticed that I didn't get a review posted for Friday - sorry about that!

I was cutting it close when I got home last night - I switched on my beloved laptop, ready to write a review of Batman '66, only to find my Internet service had crashed - it wasn't restored until sometime this afternoon.

There was no time to run out and find a signal, so for the third time since I started this humble blog, I wasn't able to deliver a "Comic of the Day."

So we're back to starting up another streak - we'll start with a Guest Review from our man Glen Davis, and then we'll get to that Batman review.

Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Justice League of America #6

For the second chapter of the Trinity War, I'm happy to report that the story is starting to make more sense.

It starts out with the "real" Justice League fighting the government-assembled Justice League of America - but the fight doesn't last too long.

The battle started in the last issue of Justice League, and included a shocking event as Superman (apparently) killed a member of the JLA.

And that's the mystery at the heart of the story. Obviously Superman didn't do this intentionally - but what was the cause? Was it mystic - perhaps related to his encounter with Pandora's Box? Or was it based in science, or some kind of plot? And who is the mysterious villain known as the Outsider?

It makes for an much more interesting tale than the first chapter, so kudos to Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire for turning this around (so far) after a rough start.

I'm also glad to see Doug Mahnke providing the art - he has a dynamic, powerful style that's well suited to this mob of characters.

So, the Trinity War score is even at 1-to-1 (good story versus weak). Let's hope the upward trend continues.

Grade: B+


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New Comic Book Day!

Here's today's haul:

- Avengers #16 - Outmatched!

- Batman 66 #1 - Zap! Pow! Merchandise! (Sorry.)

- Conan the Barbarian #18 - A sweet dream.

- FF #9 - Pool party!

- Fantastic Four #10 - Founding fathers!

- Fathom Elite Saga #5 - Final showdown!

- Iron Man #13 - That is one big robot.

- Justice League of America #6 - The Trinity War continues!

- Powers Bureau #6 - The brutal finale.

- Red Sonja #1 - Welcome to Gail Simone!

- Shadow Year One #4 - Tracking down a monster.

- Strangers #2
- Delightfully strange.

- Thor #10 - More Godbomb more often.

- Wonder Woman #22
- Meet the New Gods!

- All-New X-Men #14 - Nightmare!

And that's it!

The Classics - The Mighty Thor #133

By the time this issue of Thor was published in 1966, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were really cooking.

Thor's adventures were a marvel of efficiency and unbridled imagination.

They were efficient in that the two had hit on the perfect formula for capturing their readers. Each issue featured the main adventure with lots of action, some romance, one or more subplots bubbling along to develop into future main adventures (or wrapping up just-completed adventures), lots of interesting characters and exciting dialogue.

As for the unbridled imagination part - how's this: the alien race of Rigellians threaten to enslave the Earth unless Thor can help them overcome the mysterious threat from the Black Galaxy. When he arrives there (in the company of the robot known as The Recorder), he discovers a strange Bio-verse, and the source of the menace - a living planet known as Ego!

And that was just the story leading up to this issue! Here Thor must find a way to fight and defeat a living planet, capable of creating any weapon or environment to defeat Thor, including a instant army, hurricane-force winds and volcanic heat.

It's a visual romp for Kirby, as he creates alien vistas (including a stunning two-page spread at the beginning of the issue) and amazing, mind-bending battle sequences.

Oh, this issue isn't perfect - the story wraps up a bit quickly, as Thor takes a note from Dr. Strange's script and invokes a level of power we hadn't seen before - but it's all very entertaining and satisfying.

Remember those sub-plots I mentioned? While Thor is fighting for his life, back on Earth his beloved Jane Foster is taken to Wundagore Mountain, where she'll meet the High Evolutionary - a scientist tinkering with nature - all of which will provide Thor with his next adventure.

And that's what this comic was like, month after month after month - a fountain of amazing heroic adventures!

It's just a great example of the incredible concepts and creativity that Stan and Jack (with Vince Colletta's inks) were able to cobble together, and one reason why these characters are still in use - and loved - to this day.

It's no wonder we all agonized over that month-long wait between issues - we couldn't wait to see what happened next!

Grade: A-


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Young Avengers #7

Seven issues in and I think I like Young Avengers. Maybe.

It's hard to judge, because events tend to trundle around and sort of get resolved - but not in a straightforward way.

What I really like about the comic is the wonderful sense of humor that runs through it, both in dialogue and events. The characters are genuinely likable, have interesting abilities and their discussions are a riot.

The team is involved in brash, unusual adventures (quite a number of them in this issue, actually), and that keeps things interesting.

On the down side, I occasional wonder "what just happened?" Near the end of this issue, for example, one hero demonstrates an ability that seems to come completely out of left field - but I trust that writer Kieron Gillen will sort it out eventually.

I like the artwork by Jamie McKelvie, though I'd be curious to see his art style when combined with a veteran inker. Still, good character designs, creative layouts and a nice comic touch.

So this isn't a comic for everyone - it requires some work on the part of the reader to keep up with the twists and turns of the story. But if you're willing to put in the effort, it's a lot of fun.

Grade: B+


Monday, July 15, 2013

Batman #22

For the second issue of the "Zero Year" story, we have another issue of Batman with no Batman.

That's because this story takes place (mostly) during the slender period of time between Bruce Wayne's return to Gotham and his inspiration to become the Dark Knight.

It's interesting to see Wayne as a fallible hero, trying to tackle a major crime wave (the Red Hoods) and finding himself outmanned and outgunned.

As always, Greg Capullo provides compelling art, with some clever layout designs (including one that focuses on a certain longtime villain's method of operation) and great character designs.

And... there's not much else to say about this one without giving away key story points.

This continues to be one of the best of the New 52 comics (is it still "New" after almost two years?). But it does need more Batman.
Grade: A-


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Superman Unchained #2

My feelings are split on this second issue of Superman Unchained.

On one hand, I appreciate that the creative team has come up with a character who can go toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel (though that doesn't actually happen in this issue). I like that Superman and Batman are friends here, and that Lois and Clark actually have a civil discussion.

The art by Jim Lee is terrific, naturally. The writing by Scott Snyder is strong.

But... I hate the fact that the U.S. Military is treated as the bad guy in this issue. That trope (already worked over in the movie this summer) has been done to death.

And there's no reason for it (except to underscore that the military is developing weapons that can take out Superman).

When he arrives at a military base to find some answers to a super-popwered mystery, he is immediately threatened by General Lane (Lois' dad). Is it really a good idea to attack Superman when he's calmly asking questions? It just seems like poor strategy (especially when Lane is standing six feet away from the target of all those high-tech weapons).

I also don't like the characterization of Soldiers as being trigger-happy, or easily spooked into attacking.

There are plenty of actual villains running around the DC Universe - considering the sacrifices they make on our behalf, there's no need to lump the military into that category.

It's lazy storytelling, and in my opinion, it's frankly offensive.

Grade: C


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Guest Review: Daredevil #28

Jumping into the guest review chair is my dear friend James Cassara with a review of a comic I missed this week (my shop was shorted on its order, so hopefully it'll be there next Wednesday). He's a long-time comics fan, an excellent artist and a heck of a great guy!

Here's his review of Daredevil #28:

With or without Chris Samnee’s art, Mark Waid’s run on Daredevil has been something to savor.

Waid took the essence of what makes Daredevil such an intriguing character; his superhuman fearlessness combined with his personal failings, and ran with them in ways that few writers have been able to.

For his part Chris Samnee, whose clear storytelling and effective dynamics are the ideal match for the character, has left an equally profound mark. They’ve returned Daredevil to a place of prominence, so much so that several months ago I was inspired to write my first ever letter to a Marvel comic, which I am proud to say they published.

Given that I’ve been reading them for nearly 50 years, that says a lot.

This issue finds Javier Rodriguez filling in for Samnee as both pencil artist and colorist, and while I would love to see Samnee draw every issue I must admit he doesn’t miss a beat. Each panel flows seamlessly to the next and when he does need to open things up - such as those scenes with DD swinging over the Manhattan skyline - the results are top notch.

The recurrent storyline that has dominated the past few issues, that of Franklin “Foggy” Nelson’s battle with a life threatening form of cancer, takes a brief back seat while DD himself, as Matt Murdoch, confronts his own demon from the past: a childhood acquaintance whose constant bullying left Murdoch with deep psychological scars that quickly resurface.

Agreeing to defend his falsely arrested tormentor, Daredevil again shows why his fearlessness is not limited to taking on super powered baddies; it’s the superhero within that really defines him.

Toss in a stunning cliffhanger ending that truly had me on the edge of my seat (okay, sofa) and you’ve got a winning package all around.

Like all the best superhero comics, this recent Daredevil run has told “big” stories while focusing on the intimacies and quiet moments that really matter.

Wonderful stuff!

Grade: A+


Friday, July 12, 2013

Uncanny X-Men #8

Every series has a "down" issue now and then - one that wraps up the stories in the previous issues and sets up the next story.

The only problem is that nothing much happens in that issue.

And that's what we have in this issue of Uncanny X-Men. One new mutant quits the team, Magneto and Cyclops discuss their problems (which reminds me... that scene on the cover? Doesn't happen in this issue). Another mutant is discovered and recruited.

And that's about it.

Of course, as you'd expect, it features some sharp, funny dialogue by writer Brian Michael Bendis, and terrific, unique art by Chris Bachalo with inks by Tim Townsend. (I think Bachalo's art benefits from working with a single inker, instead of the numerous hands who have been working on recent issues.)

But otherwise it's just a placeholder for the next round of adventures.

Grade: B


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Justice League #22

This issue kicks off DC's latest "Event," as the story crosses over between the three Justice League comics - this title, Justice League of America and Justice League Dark.

It's a magic-based story, as it brings in the mysterious trinity of grim magical characters - Pandora, the Phantom Stranger and the Question.

But at its heart, it's a return to the classic formula: heroes meet, have a misunderstanding, and then fight, fight, fight.

There are some differences, of course: this misunderstanding is going to roll across six issues and several tie-in comics; it requires the heroes to all act like morons (was the JLA only formed to fight the JL?); and the spark occurs during one of those shocking, "see if we don't get some media coverage out of this" moments.

There are several positive things about this issue, of course: the Madame Xanadu part of the story is interesting; the story finally brings a certain well-known (and recently renamed) character into the Justice League; there's a lot going on and characters galore; and the artwork by Ivan Reis is terrific.

I'm still not convinced about the story, but there's plenty of time to make it work. But the beginning leans a little too hard on the sensational (and a terribly out-of-character event) for my taste.

Grade: B+


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Comics Today

Here's what I picked up today:

- America's Got Powers #6 - The finale at last! (Edit: Not really.)

- Astro City #2 - They also serve who stand and wait.

- Batman #22 - Zero Year continues.

- Hawkeye #12 - Brotherly love.

- Indestructible Hulk #10 - Team-up with Daredevil.

- Justice League #22 - A shocking turn of events. Sorta.

- Killjoys #2 - Still strange.

- Star Wars #7 - Darth Vader's secret weapon.

- Superman Unchained #2 - See, that's how you save Metropolis.

- World's Finest #14 - Going to war with Desaad.

- Uncanny X-Men #8 - Back in training.

- Young Avengers #7 - Adventures in space.

And that's it!

The Classics - Amazing Spider-Man #12

Every comics collector who's been at it a while can remember the ones that got away - the opportunities missed, the issues that slipped through our fingers.

For some reason, this is the issue I remember - Amazing Spider-Man #12.

In 1964, comic books were available almost everywhere, but I bought most of mine at one of the two newsstands in the area - one in my hometown, and the other near my Grandmother's home.

That's where I spotted this issue. The cover was intriguing, with Spider-Man being unmasked (though I had no idea who was being unmasked, having never read an issue before).

I thought about buying it, I almost bought it - but picked up something else instead - though I have no memory of what comic I did pick up.

At some point not long after that one of my friends told me that he really liked Amazing Spider-Man - so I decided to give it a shot. The next issue I spotted was #15 - the first appearance of Kraven the Hunter - and I was immediately hooked.

Spidey became one of my favorite comics, and held that title for quite some time.

So what did I miss in issue #12? (Don't worry, I later read it in a reprint in Marvel Tales.) As promised, Spider-Man was unmasked (turns out he's really Peter Parker!) after being defeated by Dr. Octopus - but there were no cheap tricks at work here - Stan Lee and Steve Ditko came up with a plausible explanation for that shocking event.

In addition, there's an amazing, inventive battle with Dr. Octopus (Hey kids - he was a villain before he became Spider-Man!) - it rolls through a zoo, across the city rooftops and ends in an artist's studio!

It's an amazing, action and humor-filled issue - if I had bought it, I would have been hooked on Spider-Man three months sooner.

Better late than never!

Grade: A


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Legend of the Shadow Clan #5 (of 5)

Here we wrap up the first (but not the last) mini-series focusing on an unlikely family of ninjas.

In Legend of the Shadow Clan we meet the (more or less) normal members of the Himura family - they finds themselves (inadvertently) targeted by a high-tech group of ninja assassins.

Luckily for them, it turns out that they come from a family of ninjas (as their elderly grandfather informs them) - and even without much in the way of training, they have enough natural skill to survive the first round of this war.

It's all a bit improbable, but quite a bit of fun - even if the bad guys tend to rely more of high tech drones to do their dirty work. Drone warfare isn't as much fun as traditional ninja battles, but it's certainly more effective.

The series has been enough of a hit to warrant a sequel, which is promising. With strong artwork and an interesting premise, the future is bright for the Shadow Clan (you should excuse the pun).

Grade: B+


Monday, July 8, 2013

Catalyst Comix #1

I have to admit that I bought this comic on impulse - the Catalyst Comix title was interesting and the cover art by Rafael Grampa caught my eye.

I didn't even realize it was a revival of several of the 1990s-era characters from Dark Horse's short-lived "World's Greatest Comics" line.

The issue includes three different features, all written by Joe Casey and drawn by new talents.

The opening story features the Superman-like Frank Wells (originally known as Titan). He's up against a mind-boggling, city destroying power that may just be impossible to stop. The art is by Dan McDaid, and it's a bit rough but very intense and raw - it reminds me of Stephen Bissette's work.

The second story is a trippy science fiction adventure with Amazing Grace, a woman with incredible skills. The equally-trippy art is by Paul Maybury, and it's solid work.

The third story focuses on the gathering of the team called Agents of Change, as a mysterious figure tries to persuade the group to get back together. It's an odd bit of business that doesn't seem to fit the other two tales (actually, none of them seem to be connected, although they all take place in the same "world"). The art is by Ulises Farinas, whose detailed work seems to be inspired by Geoff Darrow.

Overall, it's an interesting start to the series. You don't really need any prior knowledge of the characters to follow this.

It's trying very hard to be different, and largely succeeds at that - but it's definitely an odd start for a comic set in the superhero style.

Not for all tastes, but intriguing.

Grade: B-


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Guest Review: Captain Midnight #0

Back with another guest review is Glen Davis, with a look at another World War II-based hero who's back in action.

Captain Midnight was a originally the hero of a radio show, where he was a World War II character famous for a raid at the stroke of midnight. 

Later, he was referred to as the one of America's great inventors.

Captain Midnight's radio show enjoyed a great deal of success, and the character also headlined a movie serial and a television show. 

In the comics, Captain Midnight started with Dell, but soon moved to Fawcett, where he starred in his own title, and appeared in anthologies.

Moonstone revived the character recently, in its Airfighters series, with a nice series of short stories written by Christopher Mills.

In Dark Horse's revival, Captain Midnight's plane flies out of a cloud in the Bermuda Triangle. He gets out of his plane, flies with his glider wings, and forces a fighter jet to land on an aircraft carrier, where he is eventually imprisoned in the brig, but escapes almost instantly. Federal agents and Ivana Shark, descendant of Midnight's main villain, Fury Shark, pursue him, and the remnants of Midnight's Secret Squadron seek to help him.

A collection of three short feature in Dark Horse Presents gets right to the action, with a refreshing lack of self doubt and self pity. I really hope the villain Xog, King of Saturn appears soon.

Grade: A-  


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Guest Review: The Owl #1

Stepping into the guest review spot is our man Glen Davis, with a review of the first issue of The Owl:

Bringing a hero from the past into the present is a common theme in comic books. The JSA, Captain America, The Shield and the Seven Soldiers of Victory are just a small fraction of the heroes reintroduced into the present, some more successfully than others.

This week I bought two comic books with this common theme: The Owl #1 from Dynamite Comics and Captain Midnight #0 from Dark Horse.

The Owl was a feature in Crackajack Comics for Dell back in the Golden Age, and he was a straight up rip off of Batman, only instead of kid sidekick, his sidekick was his girlfriend, Owl Girl, and the two had a Nick and Nora Charles bantering relationship going. The Owl proved popular enough to appear in another title, Popular Comics, before fading away like so many other heroes as World War II came to a close.

He was resurrected three time since. In 1966, during the height of the Batman craze, a syndicated strip was proposed, where the owl was a cartoonist. He would fight crime as The Owl, then write strips recounting his own adventure.

In 1967, Dell somehow got the rights to the character. Jerry Seigel wrote a few campy adventures with the character, about which, the less said the better.

Finally, in 1976, Gold Key used the character in an issue of The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves. I was a bit surprised that Valiant use the character. (Don't even get me started on The Jungle Twins.)

Dynamite is hoping that the fourth time is the charm with a four issue mini-series.

After a couple of pages of flashback, where we learn he was imprisoned in a mystical urn for many years, The Owl beats up some thugs, then mopes around about what an anachronism he is. He goes to a police station and learns about a missing person. Then he beats up some more thugs, and a woman calling herself Owl Girl appears, who looks like a female version of ShadowHawk, takes down some thugs, and steals the inevitable suitcase full of cash.

Pretty art, but really not a lot of story.

Grade: B-

(Tomorrow, we'll look at the new Captain Midnight.)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Batman Incorporated #12

I had wandered away from the Batman Incorporated comic for a while, and I admit I was lured back to see how writer Grant Morrison would handle the death of the "new" Robin, a character he created.

This issue is the next-to-the-last in the series, and judging by this one, I have to say - I'm glad they're canceling it.

That's because it depicts a Batman who seems to be unhinged by his drive for revenge. It features a Talia who is without compassion and threatens to destroy Gotham City. And it features the final fate of Robin's killer - and it includes images that are both gruesome and horrible.

The art by Chris Burnham is quite good - he definitely is inspired by Frank Quitely - but a few shots are just too graphic for my taste.

What it comes down to is this: the character depicted in this issue isn't Batman. Instead, it features a crazed vigilante who lets his anger override his judgment - something Batman would (or should) never do.

Morrison has had an interesting run of Batman stories - some outstanding, some challenging, some puzzling. I've enjoyed most of it, but this was not his finest hour.

Grade: C-


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Avengers A.I. #1

In this review of Age of Ultron #10 AI, I talked about how I get uneasy when I see a story centered on Giant-Man (Hank Pym), because he's been so badly written too many times in the past.

That issue was a pleasant surprise, and it leads into this one - which seems to be bringing back the old crazy Hank Pym.

I may be wrong - this may be an effort to make Hank more happy-go-lucky, more eccentric - but it feels like a different character, and some of his reactions are out of character.

In the aftermath of the defeat of Ultron, Pym unleashed a program that ended Ultron - but now may have created a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) that is menacing the world.

To combat the problem, he works with SHIELD to create an Avengers team designed to battle these kinds of menaces - and so we get the old "gathering the team" bit - and that's where the issue struggles.

The first recruit is a natural - the Vision (one of my old favorites) - but for some reason they've given him some strange new abilities that don't really make sense. Wasn't he already powerful enough?

Other recruits include Victor Mancha, the "son" of Ultron, and - of all things - a Doombot. This is where you have to wonder about Pym's sanity, since the Doombot must follow orders, but constantly threatens death and destruction. Some comedy value, yes, but surely there are better robotic candidates. (And how does he suppose Dr. Doom will react when he finds out?)

It's vital for a new first issue to really grab the readers, but I'm afraid writer Sam Humphries and artist Andre Lima Araujo haven't managed that - yet.

The story has potential, but so far it hasn't taken off. The art is good, but a bit flat - and I don't care for the faces of the characters. They all seem doughy and child-like.

It's an interesting start, but it has a ways to go before this is a must-buy.

Grade: B-


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Comic Book Day

A lighter week at the ol' comics shop than the last one, thank goodness.

Here's my reading list this week:

- Avengers #15 - Great series!

- Avengers AI #1 - High tech.

- Batman Inc. #12 - Gruesome story.

- Catalyst Comics #1 - Looked interesting.

- Charismagic #3 - Stage magic meets "real" magic.

- Earth 2 #14 - Going to war.

- Emerald City of Oz #1 - The next story in this terrific series.

- Fathom Elite Saga #3 - Facing an old foe.

- Green Lantern #14 - New recruits?

- Iron Man #12 - The true origin of Tony? Meh.

- Legend of the Shadow Clan #5 - Wrapping up the first series in style.

- The Shadow #15 - More evil lurking in the hearts of men (and women).

And that's it!

The Classics - Superman #75

Let's wrap up our series of Superman "Classic" reviews (in honor of his 75th Anniversary) with the biggest event in the history of the character - his death.

The issue was published in 1993 and it may have changed the face of comics more than any other event. That's because it made the evening news.

In fact, the Death of Superman was covered by every major news outlet - newspapers, TV networks, you name it - it was a huge story (though most stories admitted that the death wasn't likely to last for long).

Ever since, every comics company has dreamed of attaining the same national coverage - and a few have come close, though none has been as successful.

The story hit its climax with this issue, after several issues leading up to it. The story introduced the mysterious behemoth known as Doomsday - a strange creature with enough physical strength and virtual invulnerability to be able to go toe-to-toe with Superman and get the better of him.

The creature had marched across the country and made its way to - of all places - the Daily Planet, where the lives of thousands were at stake - including Clark Kent's wife, Lois Lane.

It's rather sad to note that this groundbreaking issue really isn't much more than an average effort. To emphasize the groundbreaking nature of the issue, each page is a splash page.

Written and drawn by Dan Jurgens with inks by Brett Breeding, the comic just breezes past, with nice art but no real substance to the story.

There's an emotional impact, of course, in the death of an icon - but the fight sequences are so abbreviated that they lack the proper impact (so to speak) - and the end rushes up all too quickly.

I admit, I'm not a big fan of "event" comics - they're just trying so hard to shock us - and this may well be the event that started the trend.

It's great that it drew so much attention to comic books and sold so many comics - if only it had managed to be a great comic, instead of just a good one.

Grade: B-


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fathom: The Elite Saga #2 (of 5)

Since Fathom is the longest-running comic for Aspen Comics (having appeared in innumerable mini-series, though not in an ongoing series), it's always a treat to see her back in action - this time in a new weekly mini-series.

"The Elite Saga" wastes no time in getting Aspen (Fathom) Matthews out of vacation mode and back into the water, as she tries to help recover a (potentially) powerful infant who has been kidnapped by a mysterious creature.

At the same time, the baby's father is also searching for his missing wife and child - and having to fight every step of the way.

Throw in a skirmish with the military and the return of a dangerous foe, and the issue moves along at top speed.

So far, this mini-series has been action-packed, loaded with beautiful women, exotic locales and more than a few surprises.

The criticism of Fathom in the past is that it can be a challenge to sort out all the characters and locales, but this series is keeping it lean and always in motion.

Good stuff!

Grade: A-


Monday, July 1, 2013

Hawkeye #11

The new Hawkeye series has been a delight so far, mixing humor, great characters and clever stories.

But none of them hold a candle to this issue.

It's easily one of the most unusual mainstream comics in recent memory.

That's because the adventure is entirely told from the viewpoint of Hawkeye's dog, Lucky (also known as Pizza Dog) - but writer Matt Fraction doesn't use the time-honored method of giving the dog thought balloon (like Snoopy) or even the broken thoughts used so effectively by James Robinson for Krypto several years ago.

Instead, the dog's thought process (such as it is) is realized entirely through the wonderful artwork by David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth. The designs and layouts are phenomenal.

I have to admit that there are places where I was a bit fuzzy about what happened - we can chalk that up to the fact that dogs have a different way of looking at things - but I loved this issue.

It's brave, it's smart and it's entertaining as can be.

Highly recommended!

Grade: A