Thursday, July 31, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy #17

   Just in time for the feature film (about which I'm hearing wonderful things), the latest issue of Guardians of the Galaxy arrives, wrapping up the latest storyline.

   You'd think they'd want to have a fresh tale introducing the team to capitalize on new readers, but no comics company seems to make that connection, so there's that.

   But at least the Brian Michael Bendis story is a lot of fun, as Star-Lord tries to escape from his father's empire, Gamora and Angela face the threat of the Badooon, Rocket Raccoon is a captive of the Kree, Groot is a victim of the Brood, and Drax faces a battle to the death with one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe.

   The art is an odd mix, as the slick superhero stylings of Nick Bradshaw fill half the comic, and the rough-and-tumble art of Michael Oeming cover the second half.

   It will be interesting to see what effect (if any) the film has on the comic. Advance reviews are overwhelmingly positive (I hope to have a review within the next couple of days), and perhaps it'll mark out a new direction for the series.

   It's going to be a switch, going from being one of the lesser-known titles in the Marvel lineup to being one of the biggest.


Grade: A-


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Classics - The Dreamer: The Kip's Bay Affair Vol. 2

      The first volume of The Dreamer was reviewed on this blog last year - but that's just the beginning of the story!

   It continues in this second volume by writer / artist Lora Innes, as we follow the double life being led by a teenager named Beatrice Whaley. During her waking hours she has a (more or less) typical teenager's existence - going to school, worrying about dates, trying to balance friends, romances and her interest in theatre.

   But it all changes when she sleeps. In her dreams she finds herself experiencing the Revolutionary War, as the British invade New York - and the man she loves is in constant danger.

   So which life is real - or are both somehow real? And if so, is she cheating on her modern-day romance with Ben Cato? Or is her past self the one doing the cheating? Love can be confusing.

   It's a fun, fast-moving story that balances both settings nicely, and keeps the reader guessing all the way. Both time periods "feel" authentic, and the art is a real delight - full and lush, with expressive characters, a sharp balance between realism and humor, and wonderful character designs. 

   The series manages to combine history, drama, humor, soap opera and adventure into a delightful tale - I can't wait to read the next collection!

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A


New Comics Day!

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

- Avengers #33 - One last trip to the distant future.

- Avengers World #10 - Big trouble around the world.

- New Avengers #21 - The final option.

King Conan #6 - The Conqueror!

- Cyclops #3 - Time for a heart-to-heart talk.

- Guardians of the Galaxy #17 - Rescue operations.

- Hawkeye #19 - What we have here is... failure to communicate.

- Justice League #32 - Perhaps this should be titled "The Doom Patrol."

- Sandman Overture #3 - Finally!

- Uncanny X-Men #24 - What did Xavier say in his will?

   And that's it! 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Damsels in Excess #1

   From a marketing standpoint, this series seems like a natural.

   Damsels in Excess focuses on five princesses who rule over five magical kingdoms. Given the extraordinary success Disney has enjoyed in this field, not to mention the popularity of TV shows like Once Upon a Time, it seems like safe territory to navigate.

   And for the most part it has fun setting up the story. The five princesses have a serious problem: thanks to a magic spell, there are no men left in the world. (Or are there?)

   They are required to meet to uncover a long-hidden secret, and what they discover may mean the end for one princess.

   So it's a great idea, but there are problems in the execution. Reading the issue is like drinking from a fire hose - you're overwhelmed with names, locations, curses, animal sidekicks, history - the whole backstory.

   None of the princesses are particularly likable, but we don't really get much in the way of characterization, so that could change. And the story isn't aimed at young readers, as you might expect - there are some unsettling and adult situations included.

   The art is fun - it actually leans more toward comical than glamorous - and focuses on the exotic fashions.

   So it's a bit of a rough, uneven start for Aspen's new series. Hopefully they'll get the glitches ironed out and future issues will focus on the royal possibilities.

Grade: B-


Monday, July 28, 2014

Batman #33

   This issue wraps up the "Year Zero" story in Batman, and while some of the issues have been a bit up-and-down, I have to give credit to the creative team - they managed to stick the landing!

   The stakes are high, as an inexperienced Batman is taking on The Riddler in a deadly match of wits. If Batman fails, the city of Gotham may face destruction.

   It ticks off all the right boxes for long-time fans: a battle of wits between classic enemies, a death-trap with seemingly no way out, the fate of Gotham City hanging in the balance, and a gathering of friends and future allies in common cause.

   There's one story thread tagged on that feels out of place and tacked on - a flashback to Bruce Wayne's early struggles - but it's easily forgiven.

   As always, the art is terrific, and there's a genuinely touching sequence at the end that shows how dedicated Bruce must be to become the Bat.

   Glad to see this series back at the top of its game!

Grade: A


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Wonder Woman #33

   After almost three years of Brian Azarello's take on Wonder Woman as a mythological horror story, it looks like we're near the end of this tangled, twisted tale.

   We've followed Diana's ongoing battles with the pantheon of Greek gods, and the fatality rate has been high (though I should say that Diana isn't the one doing all the killing).

   We're near the final showdown with the powerful god known as First Born who has managed to take command of the gods and defeat Diana, who is now the God of War.

   That moves the battle to Paradise Island, where the Amazons have marshaled their forces to fight overwhelming odds - and it doesn't look good for any of the good guys (such as they are).

   It's great to see Cliff Chiang handling the art, since he started the "New 52" series - his art has a unique, stark look to it that's entertaining, even when the subject matter is a dark and grisly as you'll find here.

   A good time for a reminder that this is not a comic for young readers. The series (and this issue in particular) include lots of unsettling images - blood, death, destruction, even the threat of rape - not something you want your young daughter to read.

   But for those mature enough, it's a dark, powerful story. But it's definitely time to wrap it up and move on to other matters.

Grade: B+



Saturday, July 26, 2014

Star Trek Harlan Ellison's City on the Edge of Forever #2 (of 5)

   As a huge fan of the original TV series Star Trek, I can tell you that the episode City on the Edge of Forever was one of my favorites, and was one of the sharpest, most well-written episodes in the show's run.

   As a kid, I had no idea that the writer was Harlan Ellison, or that I'd eventually become a big fan of his work.

   But as I became more aware, I discovered that Ellison had written a different version of that episode originally - but had been forced to change it because of pressure from the network and other sources.

   Thank goodness for comics! Through this medium we can dust off his original script (also available as a book - there should be a link below this post), recast the actors as young and vibrant performers, and discover the story as it might have appeared.

   The story finds the crew of the Enterprise exploring a mysterious, time-altering phenomenon. When a member of the crew uses a gateway to jump into Earth's past, reality is altered - and the only way to fix it is for Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock to journey into the past to undo whatever damage the other crew member caused.

   The changes will be a surprise to those of us who've seen the original episode numerous times (and know it by heart) - and I certainly won't spoil it for you here - but it's a lot of fun to follow the story down a somewhat different path.

   The art by J. K. Woodward is excellent, capturing the likenesses of the original cast with great skill, and creating a new and unique setting for the alien world.

   I'm enjoying this series - it's wonderful to unlock and peel back the layers of the story in a new and different way. I recommend it highly!    

Grade: A


Friday, July 25, 2014

Superman #33

   We're at the second issue in the Geoff Johns / John Romita, Jr. / Klaus Jansen run on Superman, and I have to say that so far, it's been very good.

   It's great to see a focus on his secret identity, and to find Clark Kent acting like a reporter - tracking leads, doing interviews, unraveling the story.

   He's trying to uncover the secrets behind the "new Superman" who has just turned up in Metropolis - the mysterious powerhouse known as Ulysses.

   And there's a lot going on behind the scenes here, which we're just getting glimpses of - but it's a surprisingly sweet and touching issue, and it's wonderful to see the supporting cast from the Daily Planet back in the spotlight and being used to their full potential.

   The art is excellent, from tender moments to jarring action sequences.

   It's great to see this long-neglected title being placed in the hands of such capable, top-of-the-line creators. You should be reading this comic!

Grade: A-


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Groo vs. Conan #1 (of 4)

   I have to admit that when the Groo vs. Conan was first announced (some years back, it seems), my first reaction was "Oh, I'm buying that."

   My second reaction was, "How the heck is that possibly going to work?"

   After all, Groo is the most comical barbarian of them all, and Conan is rooted in the dark, brutal world of the Hyborean Age.

   I should have had more faith in Sergio Aragones, the writer / artist who created Groo and is, quite frankly, a national treasure. He is, without a doubt, our greatest comic (in every sense of the word) book artist, one of the greatest writers and an all-around wonderful guy.

   (I'd have faith in veteran writer Mark Evanier, too, but no one - including Mark - knows what he does on this comic. )

   The trick is reviewing this comic, because I don't want to give away any of the surprises therein.

   Well, the cover shows that Aragones has recruited an excellent artist to depict the Conan side of the story - Thomas Yeates, a fantastic artist with a classic heroic style that fits perfectly into the world of Conan.

   And thankfully, it's obvious that the creative team is a big fan of Robert E. Howard's creation, so - at least so far - Conan has been treated with respect. Groo, not so much, but that's as it should be.

   This is definitely the most offbeat comic in recent memory, and well worth picking up - if just to see how they make it work.

Grade: A-


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New Comics Day

   Here's what I picked up today:

- Alien Legion #2 - Under attack!

- Batman #33 - The final question!

 Elfquest: The Final Quest #4 - Pushed to the limit!

- Flash #33 - Racing through time.

- Groo vs Conan #1 - About. Danged. Time!

- Invaders #8 - Searching for an old friend.

- Original Sin #5.2Thor's searching for his sister.

- Ragnarok #1 - Walt Simonson? I'm there.

- Saga #21 - Married sex.

- Star Trek City on the Edge of Forever #2 - Kirk and Spock, time travellers. 

- Superman #33Two Supermen!

- Tomb Raider #6 - Back on the island of death.

- Wonder Woman #33 - War of the gods!

   And that's it! 

The Classics - Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #63

   I have to admit that I occasionally buy the silliest comics for no good reason.

   For example, last weekend I stopped in a local comics shop. Looking through the back issues, I found this issue of Lois Lane, a comic I never followed or cared much about (no offense to those who love the series - I'm just being honest).

   But when I read the dialogue and the caption, I laughed - and I knew I had to buy it.

   On the cover, we see Superman walking out of the traditional Daily Planet stock room, saying, "I'll tell you why I'll never marry you, Lana or you, Lois! Who wants a wife so stupid she doesn't realize I'm Superman when I take off my Clark Kent glasses?"

   The caption says, "Could Superman's 'Clark Kent' disguise fool you... all of the time... or even some of the time? So how can he keep on fooling the world? Here is the story we have never dared publish before!"

   Superman has a reputation from the Silver Age (this issue was published in 1966) of being, frankly, a jerk toward Lois and Lana, using dirty tricks to preserve his secret identity. Hard to imagine him being much more of a heel than he is here, telling his love interests that they're stupid.

   Of course, the story DC had never dared publish before ends up being a scam (it's one of those endings where a character takes off a mask to reveal his true identity - and then takes off another one to show his truly true ID.

   The issue features wonderful art by Kurt Schaffenberger (who is actually allowed to sign his work). He's one of the unsung heroes and great talents who never got the kind of attention he deserved.

   The story's silly (more sitcom than adventure), with the most surprising shock being that the story was continued into the next issue.

   Someday, I'll have to track down that issue, too. I could always use another laugh.

Grade: C


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Soulfire Annual #1

   I've complained in the past about summer annuals. The once-anxiously-awaited event has become, in more recent years, something less than special.

   I'm happy to report, though, that the Soulfire Annual is a cut above the average.

   That's because, instead of going for a bloated, overblown storyline, we get a collection of short features that serve as a great overview of the series - especially handy for those who might have come in late.

   The first is a grim struggle in the future as magic returns to the world at large; the second is a cartoon version of a young Grace and her friends trying to help a young dragon overcome a phobia; the third is a more realistic version of young Grace as she learns some surprising things about the world outside her castle; and the final chapter is a genuine primer by Michael Turner, Jeph Loeb and J.T. Krul, which explains the history behind the rise and fall of magic.

   The art is terrific - it's a fun mix of talent and stories, and a great way to catch up on the story behind Soulfire.

Grade: B+


Monday, July 21, 2014

She-Hulk #6

   The new She-Hulk series continues to fly a bit under the radar, but it's consistently good - funny and clever, with good characterizations and unique stories.

   The ongoing story by Charles Soule is a bit murky, but that's by design. She-Hulk has her team investigating a mysterious lawsuit that involves several heroes - but no one has any memory of it.

   Even worse, when the person who brought the lawsuit is mentioned, the people getting sued tend to go berserk - and then promptly forget all about it again.

   Throw in an attempted assassination, an attack by demons and an unexpected guest star and you have another entertaining (if somewhat confusing) issue.

   The art by Ron Wimberly is a bit uneven for some reason - the quiet, personal scenes are excellent, but the action sequences are just too chaotic - I'm not sure what's going on there.

   Still, this series is smart and fun - a rare combination in comics these days!

Grade: B+



Sunday, July 20, 2014

Avengers World #9

   The main Avengers titles have been mighty serious of late - so this issue of Avengers World arrives like a shot of fresh air.

   It features two Avenger team members who are best friends and former New Mutants - Sam "Cannonball" Guthrie and Bobby "Sunspot" DaCosta are cast in the unlikely role of spies, trying to uncover the secret behind the growing threat of AIM Island.

   They approach it as a lark (time travel is nothing new to them, after all), and eventually they land in that greatest of dramatic devices: a bar fight with dozens of strange aliens.

   It's all in good fun! Writer Nick Spencer keeps the dialogue fast and funny, and artist Stefano Casselli brings us amazing alien creatures and worlds of the future and keeps the storytelling clear and easy to follow.

   I'm always a sucker for humor when it's well done, and this issue fits the bill. Recommended!

Grade: A-



Saturday, July 19, 2014

Uncanny X-Men #23

   I think I should have reviewed the last issue of Uncanny X-Men. It was loaded with all kinds of action, spectacle and the grand conclusion to a long-running mystery.

   This issue promises a lot - namely, the reading of the Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier (who, amazingly, is still dead). 

   But that doesn't happen (though we do find out that the will exists).

   The issue is mostly a chance to check on on a few dangling sub-plots: the Dazzler's search for revenge, some apologies for past infractions, and the appearance of a (potentially) deadly new mutant.

   So, unless you're a diehard fan, you could probably skip this one. (Of course, now that new mutant will be the next Wolverine, and you'll all hate me for waving this one off. 

   But I'm willing to take that chance.

Grade: C+


Friday, July 18, 2014

Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International #1

   What could be more natural than a special issue combining the lunacy of Harley Quinn with the chaotic gathering known as Comic-Con International?

   Don't answer too quickly.

   It's a great idea on the surface of it, but in execution it's a very mixed bag - at least for me.

   Part of that is because the issue is struggling with the balance between the real world and the more cartoonish, Warner Brothers cartoon-type action it really calls for.

   Another part of the problem is that the art is supplied by a crazy-quilt collection of artists whose styles don't always mesh - we're talking Paul Pope, Javier Garron, Damion Scott, Robert Campanella, Amanda Conner, John Timms, Marco Failla, Dave Johnson and Stehanie Roux. All talented artists, but to try to mold their efforts into a single coherent story is a bit much (though I admit I'd follow Amanda Conner anywhere).

   Oh, and if you're going to load in lots of in-jokes, how about providing a key at the end of the issue so we can all join in?

   So a good idea for a comic celebrating the premier comics convention and celebration of all things related thereupon - but this issue just didn't work for me. Better luck next year!

Grade: B-


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Original Sin #6 (of 8)

   So I admit it: I have, in my life, watched soap operas.

   Almost 30 years ago my wife and I recorded and watched the ABC-TV soap All My Children for about a year. (We were young and foolish.)

   There was a lot to love and a lot to hate about soaps, but the signature move that the show used over and over - and I hated - was the eternal dramatic pause.

   Beautiful girl walks up to hunky guy. She glares at him and says, "Well, is it true? Did you sleep with Betty Jean?"

   The hunky guy looks at her with a guilty look on his face... he looks and looks... but never says anything. Finally, the picture fades to black - and we're in a commercial break. Hated it - it was just so unnatural and corny, an obvious trick to get the viewer to stick around through the commercial break.

   I bring it up because it's a trick that Original Sin keeps using. A group of heroes have been brought together - and sent on various wild goose changes - for reasons the man behind it, the original Nick Fury, finally reveals.

   But when the question, "Who shot the Watcher?" arises,  we get a long dramatic pause, and no answer. It's still a cheap trick.

   As always, the art but Mike Deodato is phenomenal - amazing crowd shots and stunning vistas - but the story is still struggling. Fights break out for no reason, Fury's actual mission is still unknown, and it still seems certain that Marvel has built the series for the sole purpose of killing off the original Nick Fury.

   Since he's one of my all-time favorite characters, don't expect any cheers from this corner.

Grade: B-




Wednesday, July 16, 2014

New Comics Day

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

- Avengers World #9 - Bar room brawl!

- Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International #1 - The title says it all.

- Original Sin #6 - Nick Fury's last stand.

- Savage Hulk #2 - To fight the Abomination!

- She-Hulk #6 - A demon infestation.

- Silver Surfer #4 - A visit by the Guardians of the Galaxy.

- Uncanny X-Men #23 - Professor X's last will and testament.

   And that's it!

Changes in Store for Thor

    Fandom's collective head exploded this week (as it does from time to time) with the news that, next fall, Thor will "become" a female!

   There were cries out outrage, expressions of disgust, and a few isolated comments of support.

   The announcement was very successful in one way - it gathered huge headlines from every major news source, and it was announced on the afternoon talk show "The View."

   My own reaction was of pained acceptance - it's become standard procedure to make these kinds of changes / modifications to a beloved character for the sole reason of making a splash.

   Is there a major character who has not either been killed or replaced at some point in his or her career? I'm looking at you, Spider-Man, Captain America, the Human Torch, Bucky, Superman, Batman, etc. etc. etc.

   Sometimes it's a copyright issue - so to protect against opposite-gender imitators, we get She-Hulk, Spider-Girl, Spider-Woman, American Dream (a female version of Captain America), and others I've probably forgotten.

   And this won't even be the first time we've had a female Thor! There was a What If story with Jane Foster finding Thor's hammer instead of Dr. Don Blake, at one point Storm wielded Thor's hammer, and in more recent years an alien admired the Thunder God so much that she modeled herself after him and called herself Thor Girl. Honest!

   Perhaps there are others I've forgotten?

   Anyway, the moral of our story is: be patient, and rest assured that the son of Odin will be hoisting Mjolnir again in time for his next film appearance in Avengers 2: Age of Ultron - not to mention Thor 3. (Unless Marvel has lost its collective mind.)

   In the meantime, I'm going to work at keeping an open mind about Angela as Thor (which I assume is the plan).

   Now, I wonder what they're about to do to Captain America?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bad Times: Book One: Cannibal Gold

   I’ve long been a fan of Chuck Dixon's work in comics - he's written approximately a million comics (only a slight exaggeration),  including character such as Batman, Nightwing, the Punisher and Airboy, to name just a few.

   So I was anxious to check out his newest series of novels, Bad Times

   It’s a rip-roaring love letter to science fiction, the military and blood-and-guts pulp adventures, all rolled into a fast-paced novel. 

   It tells the story of a secretive group of scientists who invent a sort of Time Tunnel (how I loved that TV show), but when their first exploration team goes missing, they hire a group of ex-Rangers to try a rescue. 

   What they find is a mind-boggling, overwhelming menace that will challenge their skills and their instinct for survival. 

   It’s one of those books that ends far too quickly (thank goodness the second volume is already available). 

   I won’t be surprised to hear that a canny film director - or videogame producer - or comics publisher - has snapped this up. 

   A bloody good time!

Grade: A


Monday, July 14, 2014

Usagi Yojimbo Color Special #5: The Artist

   After an absence to work on the series 47 Ronin, writer, artist and creator Stan Sakai has returned to the adventures of Usagi Yojimbo just in time to celebrate the character's 30th anniversary.

   They're celebrating in style with this Color Special (the fifth in the series), and it should come as no surprise that it's a real treat.

   It features four stories: a brief confrontation between two samurai; a student learns an important lesson; a meeting with some restless ghosts; and an encounter with a man whose life is dedicated to his art.

   The art is, of course, wonderful and expressive - made all the more delightful by Tom Luth's colors.

   The stories are delightful in their economy - not a line or moment is wasted - and the stories are both entertaining and moving.

   Sakai has built an amazing body of work here, and there's plenty of time to get on board - each storyline stands on its own - as his iconic tales of a samurai searching for his place in the world continues.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A


Sunday, July 13, 2014

All-New X-Men #29

   The All-New X-Men series has been heavily invested in time travel (despite the ending of the Age of Ultron event that predicted dire consequences for any further infractions).

    First the original team is brought to the present - then two X-Men teams from the future arrive, one looking for revenge.

   I have to admit I wasn't too crazy about that story - it just seemed to be muddying the waters too much, and treating some beloved characters badly.

   Perhaps I should have had more faith in writer Brian Michael Bendis - this isn't his first rodeo, after all. With this issue he manages to pull together all those loose plot threads, and with one daring move he makes it all work.

   It's an impressive bit of work and a clever twist, too.

   As always, Stuart Immonen and Wade Von Grawbadger provide tremendous artwork, including some powerful battle sequences (a few of those "everyone fight" moments), all while keeping the tangled story clear and easy to follow.

   I hope (and trust) that this will wrap up this story for a while - it's definitely time to move on to something fresh - but kudos to the creative team for sticking the landing and throwing in a number of surprises along the way.

Grade: A-


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Original Sin #5.1 (Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm)

   Neil Gaiman created Angela over in the pages of Image's Spawn comic, but when the rights to the character reverted to the author (in the wake of a lawsuit), he did something unexpected - he turned the character over to Marvel!

   The problem was, in her original appearance, she was an angel from Heaven! In Marvel, we assume there's a Heaven - but it's never been seen (and is presumably not inhabited by sword-wielding warrior women).

   Up to this point, her home has been pretty mysterious (though it's obviously not Heaven). But this issue provides the basis for her new origin - one that will leave her a powerhouse, and explain her durability and superhuman status.

   This issue spinning out of the Original Sin series launches the storyline, as  Thor and Loki learns a shocking family secret, and recruits Loki to help solve the mystery!

   It (so far) seems like a solid way to integrate Angela into the Marvel universe, grounding her in existing mythology, rather than creating a new one.

   This one is building slowly - Angela only appears momentarily in this issue - but so far it's an interesting tale of gods and secrets.

Grade: B+


Friday, July 11, 2014

Avengers #32

   The Avengers has been a rich, meaty read ever since writer Jonathan Hickman took over - but with the present storyline, he's getting even further into the weeds.

   That's because a small group of Avengers have been on a most unusual journey. It started when Captain America confronted Iron Man to demand an explanation for the actions of the Illuminati (who have been dealing with alternate-Earth incursions that threaten to destroy the world - see New Avengers).

   But their "discussion" was interrupted by the appearance of the Time Gem, which took a small group of heroes on a jump into the future.

   That journey has included some revelations about the future (happily, it indicates that we have a future, which is in doubt sometimes in Hickman's tales) - and this issue includes a surprising guest star.

   So, got all that? If you're a bit confused, don't worry, you have plenty of company. But as I've said before, for those willing to tackle this complex, twisting tale, it's a rewarding task.

   Add in the stunning artwork by Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan, loaded with fantastic vistas of a mysterious future world, and you have a powerful comic.

   It's not for everyone - but for those who "get it," it's terrific!

Grade: A


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Grayson #1

   There's nothing wrong with shaking things up in a comic book series every now and then - it keeps readers on their toes.

   But there's also no sense in throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

   In Grayson, we hear the splash of buckets of bathwater.

   Dick Grayson, the original Robin (the Boy Wonder), made the change to Nightwing for a very good reason - he had grown up and had earned the right to step away from Batman's shadow.

   I think most readers had no problem accepting that.

   But if anyone wants to explain why DC would take an excellent character and toss it away, I'd love to hear about it.

   None of which is to say that this is a bad comic. Writers Tim Seeley and Tom King and artist Mikel Janin have crafted a solid comic here, in which an acrobatic James Bond gets involved in some kind of espionage that involves a kidnapping, a rescue attempt, a surprising (and worthy) opponent, and a decent setup for future issues.

   But virtually unseen in the issue is Dick Grayson, who demonstrates little personality or justification for his new mission.

    The story is well crafted, I like the art a lot, with dynamic layouts and strong character designs - but there's just not enough here to hook this reader. Sorry, but I won't be back for issue #2.

Grade: B


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

New Comics Today!

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

- Avengers #32 - Into the distant future!

- Daredevil #5 - The end for Foggy?

- Fantastic Four #7 - Things get worse.

- Grayson #1 A new beginning for the original Robin.

- Infinity Man and the Forever People #2It's always the bugs.

- Invaders #7 - Flashback.

- Magnus Robot Fighter #5 Hanging with the Gophs.

- Original Sin #5.1Thor has a sister?

- Star Wars #19 Getting the band back together.

- Superman Wonder Woman #10Is Superman Doomed?

- Usagi Yojimbo Color One -ShotBack from a break, and in full color!

All-New X-Men #29 - Final showdown.

   And that's it!

The Classics - The Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1

   For reasons I'm hard pressed to explain, I've always liked the lovable losers known as the Legion of Substitute Heroes.

   They're the rejects who tried to join the Legion of Super-Heroes, but were too lame to make the cut.

   It's hard to figure why they would be excluded - their powers weren't much more useless than, say, Matter-Eater Lad (who co-stars in this issue) or Light Lass.

   But rather than accept defeat, they decided to team up and serve as a last-ditch, desperation version of the Legion.

   They're used to maximum effect in this special from 1985, as writer Paul Levitz and artist Keith Giffin (with Karl Kesel inks) team up to craft an especially, zany, off-beat, and yes, funny special issue. (It's something of a precursor to Giffin's work later on Justice League International.)

   The story features a terrible foe threatening to destroy the planet Bismoll (home to Matter-Eater Lad), and only the Subs are available to save the day. So Polar Boy, Fire Lad, Chlorophyll Kid, Color Kid, Infectious Lass, Porcupine Pete and Stone Boy race to the scene.  (The idea of which doesn't exactly inspire confidence.)

   What follows is a comedy of errors - it's silly, it's goofy - but for any long-time fan of the Legion, it's mighty entertaining.

   With a comics industry entirely too focused on the grim and gritty angle, it was great to get a break with a truly comic adventure. I loved it!

Grade: A-



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Batman '66 Green Hornet #2 (of 6)

   This series that teams up the '60s TV heroes Batman and Green Hornet (not to mention Robin and Kato) continues to hit all the right notes as it evokes its campy source material.

   The, uh, fantastic foursome starts the issue in the grip of a deathtrap (each continued episode of the TV show ended on a cliffhanger, with the heroes in a fiendish trap).

   As seen on that amazing Alex Ross cover, General Gumm (a relative of Paste-Pot Pete, perhaps?) has glued them to the top of a speeding train - and there's a tunnel up ahead!

   The trick to this team-up is the conceit that the Hornet is a crime lord (the better to infiltrate the underworld, it says here), so the story must find ways to team them up while keeping them at odds with each other.

   They manage the balance in this issue, while adding in a welcome new baddie, and just enough silliness to maintain the format.

   This series isn't for everyone - those who hate the original series certainly won't be interested.

   But for those, like me, who enjoyed the show, this is a fun throwback to the days when heroes could have fun, and grim and gritty was a long way off.

Grade: B+


Monday, July 7, 2014

The Legendary Star-Lord #1

   Give the Guardians of the Galaxy credit - you'd have a tough time finding a group with more diverse origins.

   Groot started in Tales to Astonish in 1960, one of the classic Lee / Kirby monsters.

   Drax the Destroyer first appeared in Jim Starlin's Iron Man (and later Captain Marvel) series in 1973.

   Gamora, the Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy, first appeared in Starlin's Warlock in 1975.

   Rocket Raccoon first appeared in the black-and-white Marvel Preview magazine in 1976.

   Four issues earlier, the same magazine featured the first appearance of Star-Lord - but he had little resemblance to today's character. That first incarnation was an attempt by legendary writer Steve Englehart to merge space opera, super-hero action and astrology. (Really!)

   But Englehart left Marvel after that first story, and later creators (including Chris Claremont and John Byrne, among others) converted the character to an action hero, modeled after classic science fiction stories.

   But in his modern incarnation, he's more of a wise-cracking, fast-thinking rogue. His motive seem suspect, but he's actually a hero who hides his better nature behind his image.

   This first issue by writer Sam Humphries is a good primer for the character,  as he finds himself in conflict with his alien enemies, the Badoon, as they seek out a priceless gem - that happens to be hidden in an orphanage.

   Artist Paco Medina turns in some excellent artwork here, jumping between moments of quiet reflection, hoo-hah action and a good dose of humor.

   As first issues go, it's a solid start, and holds a lot of promise for future adventures.

Grade: B+



Sunday, July 6, 2014

100th Anniversary Special Fantastic Four #1

   This is a puzzling issue, at best.

   The title is 100th Anniversary Special Fantastic Four. That's tough to figure, since (if my math is correct) 2014 marks the 53rd Anniversary of Marvel's first family.

   But you can't let that stop you - so this issue is being presented as though it was being printed in 2061.

   It's a cute conceit - but as the basis for a series of specials? Not so much.

   And while there are some clever bits of business in Jen Van Meter's story, covering the team line-up in the future, the romantic involvements therein, and the fate of the original team - it just never comes together to make much sense.

   And the artwork by Joanna Estep isn't a great fit for the FF - she has a thin, sketchy style that would work great on a more down-to-earth series - but there are too many panels here (including the last one) where I have no idea what's happening.

   It's an interesting experiment, but not a successful one. I can't recommend this one.

Grade: C+


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Superman Unchained #7

   The Superman Unchained series has been around just over a year, but the gaps between issues have made it a challenge to keep a grip on the story.

   So let's see: we have the U.S. military surrounding Superman's Fortress of Solitude, threatening to kill him if he refuses to surrender. (Boy, do I hate that bit of business.)

   We have the powerhouse known as the Wraith (who may be more powerful that Superman) invading the Batcave to kill Batman.

   Then there's Lois Lane (remember her?), who guards a mysterious stone of power.

   It all collides together in an action-packed issue that gives artist Jim Lee lots of chances to strut his stuff, with several full-page and double-page spreads.

   Just two more issues to go, so this should be wrapping up by, what, early 2015? Hope it'll have been worth the wait.

Grade: B+