Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Justice, Inc. #2

   This mash-up of three of the most famous pulp heroes is a bit of an odd mix.

   The story is still being sorted out, but Justice, Inc. features a (somewhat) new origin for The Avenger - one that incorporates The Shadow and Doc Savage.

   We also get some glimpses into the origins of The Shadow, a meeting between Docs past and present, and a quick meeting between a powerful enemy - and Howard Hughes.

   Writer Michael Uslan seems to be having fun working with these icons, and artist Giovanni Timpano is doing a good job capturing the time period (the '30s) and the likenesses of the heroes. His work only suffers in comparison to the amazing cover by Alex Ross.

   Two issues in, and we're still getting the team together - but so far, it's been entertaining to see these different heroes back in action.

Grade: B+


Monday, September 29, 2014

Alien Legion: Uncivil War #4 (of 4)

   Here's the book that (happily) will not die.

   Alien Legion started life as an Epic Comic in the '80s, and has bounced around since then, finally landing at Titan Comics (which is happily preparing to reprint numerous collections of past stories).

   Created by Carl Potts, Alan Zelenetz and Frank Cirocco, it followed the battles and adventures by a rag-tag band of assorted aliens, gathered into a French Foreign Legion-style organization.

   This mini-series (which wraps up with this issue) is in the capable hands of writer Chuck Dixon, who is simply the best action / adventure writer in comics today (my simple rule is: if he writes it, I buy it).

   The art is by the frenetic Larry Stroman, inked by none other than original creator Carl Potts, and offers a powerful and chaotic battle.

   With all that said, it would be tough to start this story with this final issue - you might be better served to wait for the collection coming in a few months. With this issue you're getting the final part of an against-all-odds space battle that has the Legion up against a powerful opponent - and the life of a planet is on the line.

   It's great to see this series back in action, and hopefully this is just the beginning of a new series of stories!

Grade: A-


Sunday, September 28, 2014

All-New Invaders #10

   There are a couple of interesting things about this issue of the All-New Invaders.

   For one, it actually makes reference to the conflict going on right now between Captain America's faction of the Avengers and the Illuminati, which includes Namor.

   It's just a fleeting mention, but kudos for not just ignoring the conflict.

   The other thing I'm enjoying is the focus on characters and concepts from some of Marvel's most interesting comics in the '70s - including Deathlok and War of the Worlds (which was teased years ago at the end of the "Death of Captain America" series). And oh, that last panel.

   It's also bringing in characters from the original Invaders series and giving them a modern twist.

   Writer James Robinson does his best work when he's dealing with this kind of sweeping comics history, and this is building nicely. I also like the artwork by Steve Pugh, a classic comics style with strong, clean storytelling.

   This series hasn't quite clicked yet - there have been some great moments, and a few lackluster ones  - but you get the sense that it's almost there. Hopefully!

Grade: B+


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Saga #23

   It's the curse of most comics that any long-time reader generally knows where it's all going.

   Good guys fight bad guys, there are setbacks, but the good guys will always win.

   But when you read Saga, you just don't know where it may go next, as this issue demonstrates.

   The couple at the heart of the series are having marital difficulties, and Alana has turned Marko away - which makes things even more tense when a murderous renegade robot turns up on their doorstep.

   And if that all sounds crazed - well, that's part of writer Brian K. Vaughn's appeal. He weaves fascinating characters, potent emotions and exotic locations (and occupations) into an amazing portrait of a strange reality, with intense conflicts and unexpected twists.

   And that's not to discount the wonderful art by Fiona Staples - a vivid and unique painting style that's just as surprising as the script.

  This is one of those series where I keep running out of adjectives. It's not for everyone - it's very adult in content and sometimes offensive - but it's a sharp, clever story with great twists and turns - highly recommended!

Grade: A-



Friday, September 26, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy #19

   OK, I get it - writer Brian Michael Bendis likes to take his time when he's telling a story.

   But I'm throwing the BS flag on this Guardians of the Galaxy story.

   After waiting years to find out how Star-Lord and Thanos survived the conclusion of the Thanos Imperative story (and if Nova survived), we finally have Peter Quill telling us what happened (the story started last issue), and by the end of this issue, we still don't know what happened!

   Granted, he's not done telling the story yet. Will it take another issue, three more issues? Who knows?

   But the whole thing so far, told with powerful art by Ed McGuinness, just seems to be running in place, and doesn't fit with the previous event series.

   We're getting lots of fighting, more guest stars (this in a universe that was collapsing), and an improbable explanation of how the Cancerverse works - it was supposed to be a universe filled with death, and now it's being sold as something else.

   There are plenty of stories out there that call for a slow, deliberate pace, but this one feels like it's just dragging things out to fill up a collection. Prove me wrong, Marvel!

Grade: C+


Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Avengers #24

   In recent issues I've worried that the members of the Illuminati  (the New Avengers) were in danger of becoming the greatest villains in the Marvel universe.

   But as this issue shows, there are others who deserve the title more.

   The problem is cosmic in nature, as alternate Earths threaten to crash into "our" Earth. The only alternative is to destroy the invading planet.

   Things get critical when that Earth is found to be inhabited. The heroes find they can't commit genocide - even to preserve their own people - and only Namor the Sub-Mariner is willing to destroy the other Earth.

    To continue destroying those other Earths he was forced to find new allies - truly evil creatures who revel in the destruction.

   This latest issue takes us eight months into the future, to see the grim results of Namor's decision - and what happens when he tries to "fix" his mistake.

   It takes grim and gritty to a new level (at least for an Avengers comic), and it's setting up some serious confrontations - and we also get a glimpse, for the first time, of what's behind it all.

   It's another powerful story by Jonathan Hickman, and excellent art by Valerio Schiti (though I must admit his depiction of Thanos doesn't quite work for me).

  This epic tale continues to build, and while it's not a story for kids, it's one that promises a big pay-off - eventually.

Grade: A-


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Classics - Tales of Suspense #79, 80 and Tales to Astonish #82

   Last week we talked about the classic Marvel "split" comics, which offered two separate adventures in a single comic, each running 10 or 12 pages long.

   It made me think about this story, what I believe to be the first-ever story crossover in the Silver Age. 

   One of Marvel's hallmarks from the beginning of its resurgence in the 1960s was the guest star (or guest appearance) - so it wasn't unusual to see Thor fly by Spider-Man, or the X-Men's Angel to appear in an early issue of Iron Man.

   As a reader, it was exciting and it helped cement the "reality" of the growing Marvel universe, and it was a heck of a lot of fun. 

   But those guest appearances were limited to cameos (something Stan Lee has further mastered in his film career, come to think of it). Sometimes it meant a brief team-up - the Human Torch and Daredevil sometimes worked with Spidey, Dr. Strange provided his expertise to the Fantastic Four - that sort of thing.

   But each story stood alone, until this story. It started in Tales of Suspense #79 (printed in 1966), as Iron Man found himself under attack by the Sub-Mariner's foe, Warlord Krang, who had kidnapped the Lady Dorma (Namor's love interest).    

   Iron Man survives the attack and his armor is badly damaged - and then he's confronted by Namor, who's furious that Iron Man interfered in his attempt to rescue Dorma. 

   That led into the next issue - ToS #80, and a battle between the two heroes (continued stories were nothing new by this point). The battle raged through the issue - and then continued into Tales to Astonish #82!

   I may be wrong (and I admit I haven't done exhaustive research here, so feel free to correct me), but I believe that's the first time a story started in one title and continued in another title altogether - something that is way too common today.

   I suspect it wasn't exactly intentional. Gene Colan was drawing both Iron Man and the Sub-Mariner's stories at the time, but he only drew two pages of Astonish. The credits say he came down with the flu, and the rest of the issue was drawn by Jack Kirby! Also, the issue was plotted by Stan Lee and scripted by Roy Thomas, so you get the sense that there was a serious deadline problem that may have forced Marvel to juggle things around.

   For whatever reason, it's a bit of a landmark - and a heck of a fun issue, as Kirby kicks out the stops for a teeth-rattling, earth-shaking battle royal between the two powerhouses. The ending is a bit convenient, but it's a heck of a lot of fun.

   Crossovers are at the other end of the spectrum today as they're used more as a sales took than a storytelling device (or so it seems to me) - but that's an argument for another day.

Grade: A


New Comics Day

   Whew! Things have been hectic at Chuck's Comic of the Day, so I'm a bit off-schedule - working my way back. I appreciate you all bearing with me.

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

- Alien Legion #4 - The final battle!

- Cyclops #5 - Search and rescue.

- Elfquest #5 - The fall!

- Groo vs Conan #3 (of 4)  - Another unexpected ending!

- Guardians of the Galaxy #19 - What happened in the Cancerverse?

- Invaders #10 - Dealing with Deathlok.

- Justice Inc. #2 (of 6) - Meet The Avenger!

- New Avengers #24 - The Cabal runs amok!

- Saga #23 - Splitting up.

- Star Trek: City on the Edge of Forever #4 (of 5) - Trying to save the world. 

   And that's it!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

George Perez's Sirens #1 (of 6)

   Artist and writer George Perez doesn't do enough work these days to suit me (and I realize he's had some health problems in recent years which have limited his availability), so it's great to see him tackling his own concepts.

   In Sirens he tackles a subject that's right in his wheelhouse, as a team of beautiful and powerful woman team up... for some reason or another.

   It's an issue that's jam-packed with amazing art and an impressive amount of text and dialogue - you definitely get your money's worth with this series.

   It's the fanciful tale of a team of women from across different time periods, strange worlds and alternate realities (some science fiction, some fantasy).

   The first issue is sort of like taking a sip of water from a fire hose - it's a bit overwhelming at first.

   But Perez's enthusiasm is contagious, and the issue is a heck of a lot of fun.

   The art is terrific - he hasn't lost a step in his ability to fit in an amazing amount of detail and design in each panel. Add that to a fun story, and I'm happy to recommend this series.

Grade: A-


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Daredevil #8

     The first issue of Daredevil I ever read was the original issue #4, in which the Man Without Fear faced a villain called the Purple Man.

   The victim of a strange accident, the man named Killgrave found himself able to command others - with the exception of Daredevil, though it's never clear why he isn't compelled to follow those orders.

   Is it because he can't see that purple skin? No idea.

   But I enjoyed that issue a lot. The Purple Man has made a few appearances since - most notably playing a key part in the Alias series years ago.

   But what was kind of a goofy (or very slimy) bad guy has become the springboard for a more disturbing story in the hands of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee.

   They've crafted a creepy, unsettling story about victims who use their powers in unexpected ways.

   It's a smart, clever script with amazing artwork - this is a series you should be following.

Grade: A-


Saturday, September 20, 2014

All-New X-Men #32

   I like a comic with a sense of humor, and this issue of the All-New X-Men splashes its all over the cover, which is a fun take on the classic issue that introduced Kitty Pryde (note Kitty looking annoyed next to the center circle).

   The interior of the comic is a bit more serious as the members of the original X-Men (except for Cyclops, who's off having fun in his own comic) and X-23 find themselves teleported somehow into unfamiliar - and sometimes deadly - settings around the globe.

   But there's more to it than that. As the guest star on the cover indicates, they're actually on an alternate Earth. The question is, how can they get back to their world?

   As always, the dialogue by writer Brian Michael Bendis is sharp, and I really like the artwork by Mahmud Asrar - his characters are expressive, the layouts are clever and the environments well crafted.

   This is shaping up to be a fun cross-over - though where it goes from here, I have no idea!

Grade: A-


Friday, September 19, 2014

Multiversity: Society of Super-Heroes #1

   I absolutely loved this issue.

   Titled Multiversity: Society of Super-Heroes, it seems to be a pulp hero version of the Justice Society, and you get the sense that (like me), writer Grant Morrison has great fondness for that team.

   It drops us into an alternate Earth as it faces an invasion from an alternate universe, and it's a battle of equals as the heroes try to stem the inexorable tide of evil.

   It's difficult to talk about, because each character intro (including the team's opponents) is a delight, and I don't want to ruin that.

   Of course, you can see Dr. Fate on the cover (in the issue he goes by "Doc" Fate), and there's a Blackhawk symbol there, too - but I'll say no more.

   The art by Chris Sprouse is wonderful - vibrant, powerful, with amazing layouts and great character designs.

   This is a series driven by imagination and a love of the vast mythology that the DC Universe rests on. It's wonderful to see it being mined to full effect!

Grade: A


Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Avengers #35

   What's up with the future?

   DC has turned its whole line over to Future's End (about which I know naught and could care less), and now the Avengers have leaped forward eight months into the future.

   I'm not sure why this has happened, but the story has enough mystery and mayhem to keep it interesting as the reader tries to catch up on events.

   It's interesting that a baby has entered the picture (doesn't that take more than eight months to assemble?), and we get our first look at the new, hammer-less Thor.

   The art is nice, but it's provided by a small army of pencilers and inkers, so it's a bit of a mixed bag.

   But the story continues to sizzle as the sides are drawn between groups of Avengers - and SHIELD takes an active role in solving the problem.

  The final-page reveal certainly sparks interest. Writer Jonathan Hickman is molding a big, worlds-shattering tale here, loaded with surprises and unexpected turns.

   Great stuff!

Grade: A-


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Classics - Tales of Suspense #78

   It's hard to believe that there was a time when neither Captain America or Iron Man had a comic book of his own.

   From their introduction (or re-introduction) in the early '60s through to the late '60s, they shared a single comic - the former monster comic re-purposed for the newly-popular genre of superheroes - Tales of Suspense.

   And I have to admit, I loved loved loved these "split comics." Part of the reason was that you got two different heroes for the price of one (even if each month's adventure was only 10 pages long).

   You were also getting some amazing talent. This issue from 1966, for example, includes the climax of Iron Man's first fight with the towering Ultimo (the pawn of the Mandarin). The climax of a tense (and seemingly hopeless) battle, it was written by Stan Lee and drawn by Gene Colan.

   The backup story has Captain America teaming up with Nick Fury in an incredible, ingenious battle to the finish with a powerful android. The creative team is Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and it's the usual brilliant battle royal, loaded with more imagination than anything in recent memory.

   Eventually both Cap and Iron Man would get their own titles, they would become best friends - and worst enemies - but this was the breeding ground, where they first thrilled fans in these bite-sized adventures.

   Wonderful stuff. And each comic only cost a mere 12 cents!

   Them was the days!

Grade: A


New Comic Book Day

   Here's what I picked up today:

- Avengers #35 - A peek eight months into the future.

- Avengers World #13 - Battle around the world!

- Daredevil #8 - The Children of the Darned!

- Hulk #6 - Solving the gamma problem.

- Savage Hulk #4 - Facing the original X-Men.

- Multiversity: Society of Super-Heroes #1 - The heroes of the '50s who never were.

- Original Sin: Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm #5 (of 5) - Meet your new sister!

- George Perez's Sirens #1 (of 6) - Time-spanning team of warrior women!

- Thor #25 - The last issue of Thor as a guy?

- All-New X-Men #32 - Welcome to the Ultimate Alternate universe!

- Uncanny X-Men #26 - Facing the most powerful mutant of all?

   And that's it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Powers Bureau #11

   One thing you have to admit about the Powers Bureau series - you never know what to expect next.

   Even this new start to the series takes us quickly into unexpected directions.

   Creators Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming have taken the lead characters - Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim - and have placed them in the FBI, investigating crimes that involve "Powers" (super-powered humans).

   A trip out to the west coast has landed them in a surprising conspiracy - and finds Walker in the fight for his life against the most unexpected foe of all.

   And then there's that finale, which promises to change everything yet again.

   This is not a series for everyone - it's dark, adult and brutal, but it's also smart and expertly crafted, mashing together the detective and police genre with the world of superheroes.

   It's strong on the grit, but powerful stuff.

Grade: A-




Monday, September 15, 2014

Death of Wolverine #2 (of 40

   For a series that wears its crassly commercial concept on its sleeve (or at least its title), Death of Wolverine is actually an entertaining comic.

   It doesn't hurt to have excellent artwork by Steve McNiven, who crafts an amazing world (and an impressive disguise for Logan).

   Wolverine is forced to travel to the other side of the world to confront his old enemy Viper, and the trick he uses to gain an audience with her is a clever one.

   There he'll meet more than one old foe and/or friend as the noose is drawn tighter around his now-vulnerable existence (thanks to the loss of his healing factor).

   It's a violent, brutal but clever story. Wonder how it'll all wrap up?

Grade: A-


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hawkeye #20

   Not only has the Hawkeye comic been exceptional - you're actually been getting two stories for your investment.

   Half of the issues have focused on Clint Barton, the original Avenger known as Hawkeye, while the other have followed the adventures of Kate Bishop, who also goes by Hawkeye (having appropriated the name while Clint was apparently dead).

    This issue follows her attempts to deal with a twisted scheme by her bitter enemy, Madame Masque, which involves Kate being framed for murder, going undercover (while naked), uncovering some surprising facts and learning that the life of a private investigator isn't as easy as she expected.

   It's fast, funny and clever - in other words, business as usual for writer Matt Fraction and artist Annie Wu.

   The series manages an excellent balance between humor and action, with great characters and wonderful. expressive art.

   I'm running out of superlatives. Highly recommended!

Grade: A-


Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Avengers #34.1

   I suppose every comics company has its own version of Superman (just as most have a version of Batman, Captain America and the Hulk).

   For Marvel Comics, that would be Hyperion, who started out as a villain from an alternate Earth. The character has been through several different incarnations over the decades since he first appeared, but his latest incarnation is as a hero whose world was destroyed, but he was drawn through the dimensions to our world.

   He's established himself as an Avenger and a friend to Thor, but he's mostly been a mystery - until this oddly-numbered issue.

   Here we see him in solo action as he tries to track down a boy who was kidnapped. It's a smart, sharp use of his extraordinary powers, and we get a look inside the mind of this unusual hero.

   Kudos to writer Al Ewing for writing a Superman story unlike any other, and to artists Dale Keown and Norman Lee for a powerful look at an iconic figure.

   What I find most interesting is that the character could still end up being a villain. Or a hero. Because of his unique outlook, it all depends on your interpretation - and that of the creative team.

   It'll be interesting to see what happens next!

Grade: A-



Friday, September 12, 2014

Superman Unchained #8

   In my review of the last issue of this series, I predicted that Superman Unchained would wrap up early in 2015, but this issue only took two months to show up (as opposed to four months between the previous issues), so I may be wrong.

   With one issue left, they might just squeeze it in before the end of the year.

   But this is a series that will, I presume, read much better as a collection. I say this because, thanks to the gaps between issues, I can't remember the running subplots here.

   The focus in this issue is on the long-awaited knock-down, drag-out fight between Superman and the even more powerful alien Wraith.

   It gives artist Jim Lee lots of opportunities for some great action sequences as the battle ranges from the desert to outer space and the bottom of the ocean. And it's nice to see Superman using his intelligence to win a fight, rather than just slugging it out.

   As for the rest of the story, I have to admit I don't remember much about it. Something to do with Lois and Jimmy and Lex Luthor and something called the Earthstone. And apparently the Earth is facing another alien invasion of some kind.

   But it's a bad sign when I really don't remember enough about the story to care. A strong fight sequence, though, and nice to see it didn't end up with Metropolis in ruins, like a certain big-budget movie I could name.

Grade: B+


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Annihilator #1

   Whenever Grant Morrison writes, attention must be paid.

   So I eagerly picked up this first issue of Annihilator, which is being published by Legendary Comics.

   It is, you should not be at all surprised to discover, intelligent, mercurial and very compelling.

   It's a story told on two levels, a story within a story. Over in what we laughingly call the real world, we find a writer trying to get work done on his next film - so he buys a strange haunted house in hopes that it'll inspire him.

   The story he's writing takes place in outer space at the heart of the galaxy, as a small outpost orbits near the universe's biggest black hole, which is know as the Annihilator.

   There we meet the criminal Max Nomax, who has been exiled to that murderously depressing site.

   And then, dear friends, things start getting really weird.

   This is not a book for children, as you might expect. There's nudity, drug use, bad words - that sort of thing. Not that kids would be likely to tackle this story - it's very challenging and quite disturbing.

   The art by Frazer Irving is dark and vivid, with powerful layouts and unique character designs - I like it a lot!

   This book isn't for everyone, of course, but it's a sharp science fiction tale with a dark twist - I'm anxious to see where it goes from here.

Grade: A


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Classics - Ms. Marvel #1

   From time to time the comics companies try to expand their horizons by tackling popular genres, or creating new kinds of heroes.

   But the one area that every company struggles with is creating a successful female hero.

   Until recent times, the only long-running successes in this field were Wonder Woman and Supergirl - and both were often only marginal successes financially.

   Marvel made a few efforts to create comics that starred solo female superheroes in the Silver Age - The Cat and Shanna the She-Devil were the first in 1972, I believe (although Black Widow had some solo adventures in the "split" comic Amazing Adventures in 1970).

   Then, in 1977, they launched Ms. Marvel, designed to star a liberated female who was strong in her "normal" life and a very powerful heroine, as well.

   They didn't skimp on the talent - it was written by one of Marvel's top writers, Gerry Conway, and drawn by living legend John Buscema (with Joe Sinnott inks).

   The story revolves around Carol Danvers, a former military / security specialist who was a friend to Captain Mar-Vell. But in a curious story move, she retires from her military work and becomes... a writer and editor, working on a women's magazine for J. Jonah Jameson - which connects her to the Spider-Man supporting cast and one of Spidey's most powerful villains.

   Which is not to say that the issue was a home run - it's actually a stumbling start for the hero. For one, she doesn't know her real identity (though it's obvious to us) - and her powers are strength, flight and that old comics canard, super-feminine intuition (she calls it a Seventh Sense).

   And then there's her costume, a cutout, peekaboo version of Captain Marvel's costume, with bare back, bare midriff and bare legs.

   The costume would eventually be fixed by Dave Cockrum, who cooked up the black-and-gold version that offered a bit more coverage, and Ms. Marvel would go through numerous changes over the decades since - these days she's more successful than even, taking on the title of Captain Marvel and taking her place as one of Marvel's most powerful heroes.

   (She kindly turned her "Ms" title over to a new hero.)

   But it was a long, tough road to today.

Grade: B-


New Comics Day

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

- A free copy of the Marvel 7th Anniversary Magazine.

- Aniihilator #1 - A new series from Grant Morrison.

- Astro City #15 - Down on the Robot farm!

- Avengers #34.1 - Focus on Hyperion.

- Death of Wolverine #2 - He's not dead yet.

- Fantastic Four #10 - It's all changing.

- Hawkeye #20 - Facing Madam Masque!.
- Magnus #6 - Tracking down a monster.

- Powers Bureau #11 - What happened to Retro Girl?

- Superman Unchained #8 - Taking on the Wraith!

   And that's it!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Uncanny X-Men #25

    For writer Brian Michael Bendis' run on both Uncanny X-Men and All-New X-Men, the idea seems to be to get back to basics. (This is, I think, a very good idea.)

   So we have one book dedicated to the original (All-New) team of X-Men, brought through time to the present, and we have another book dedicated to the newest version of the team.

   One of the standard stories from the book's early day was investigating new mutants, and trying to help or recruit tham.

   And that's the story we're getting here, as Professor Charles Xavier reveals his darkest secret, courtesy of his hologram image delivering his last will and testament.

   It relates a sad tale from the early days of the X-Men. It's all about a boy who develops incredibly destructive powers, and proves to be too much for even Professor X to manage.

   It promises to be a major challenge for the team - and it brings together some of the modern-day X-Men characters who need to talk things out. (Or, since this is Marvel, fight things out.)

   The art is modern, but the story feels like more of a throwback to the glory days of this series. Here's hoping for more of the same!

Grade: A-


Monday, September 8, 2014

Grendel vs. The Shadow #1

      The first character that brought writer / artist Matt Wagner to the attention of fans everywhere was Grendel, a true rarity - a lead character who was a criminal mastermind, constantly at war with an otherworldly law enforcer.

   For the first time in years (if not decades), Wagner returns to his original creation, and provides an interesting twist.

   Grendel makes a jump through time from the present to the 1930s. (I'm not sure if Grendel is actually set in the '70s or the "present," but so far it really doesn't matter).

   In his new reality, Grendel decides to take control of the mob families - but while regular criminals don't offer much of a challenge to that super-villain, he may have met his match with the classic pulp hero known as The Shadow.

    It promises to be a clash of giants - both are incredibly smart, capable and ruthless.

   The art is terrific, loaded with powerful layouts, great character designs and detailed environments - Wagner brings the '30s to life (and it's interesting to compare the visual difference between the modern era and the past).

   It's a powerful (if sometimes grisly) beginning to this miniseries. Sign me up!

Grade: A


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Usagi Yojimbo: Senso #2 (of 6)

   I carry few regrets through my comics collecting "career," but one is that I haven't bought every issue of Usagi Yojimbo (though I have picked up quite a few).

   Each issue is a marvel of story construction, great characters and terrific art - and this mini-series, Senso, is no exception.

   It takes the series in a unique direction, as a battle between warring factions is rudely interrupted (apparently) by a crashing space ship. And the first thing to emerge from the ship is... no, that would be telling.

   It all propels the cast into a completely different war - though one with some familiar (and terrifying) elements.

   It's a powerful return for this series!

   So avoid my mistakes - this series is highly recommended!

Grade: A


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Justice League #33

   There seems to be a trend in the comics I've been reading lately: Great art, weak stories.

   Here's another one.

   First of all, I love this alternate cover by Darwyn Cooke - this is "my" Justice League.

   Meanwhile, the rest of the comic is loaded with terrific art by Doug Mahnke and Keith Champagne, depicting a battle between the JL and the Doom Patrol, while focusing on the "who can be the most evil" contest between Lex Luthor (who wants to join the JL) and the boss of the DP, Niles Caulder.

   They're fighting over the fate of the newest Power Ring, a woman linked to the other-world version of Green Lantern.

   Making the DP into a bunch of crazy freaks isn't exactly my favorite take on the team (though Grant Morrison had a great run on his Vertigo series), that's what we're getting in the "New 52."

   I was hoping for more out of this collision, but it's just kinda "eh."

   Great art, though.

Grade: B-


Friday, September 5, 2014

The Death of Wolverine #1

   You'd have a tough time finding a group more dubious of (fictional) death than comic book fans.

   (Maybe soap opera fans.)

   It's been a regular shtick for comics (and fiction in general) for a long time, but it started becoming a "thing" for comics when DC gained nationwide publicity by "killing" Superman. (He got better. They always get better.)

   Since then, everyone who's anyone in comics has "died" - Batman, Captain America, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, the Flash, Wonder Woman, Thor, Iron Man - you get the idea.

    Some have died more than once, and it looks like Wolverine is about to join that group, as the title of this mini-series indicates.

   Thankfully, they've turned the idea over to a strong creative team - writer Chares Soule and artists Steve McNiven and Jay Leisten.

   The story finds Logan trying to find a solution to the loss of his healing factor - but time is running out as a bounty is placed on his head, and with his powers waning he must fight for his life.

   It's a strong issue - a bit heavy of the violence (and not for kids), but the art is stunning, and the story seems to be building nicely.

   But over it all hangs the air of cynicism. I have no doubt that Wolverine will "die" - for a while - but if anyone thinks this is really the end for Marvel's most popular mutant, they have a lot to learn about how comics work.

Grade: A-



Thursday, September 4, 2014

Original Sin #8 (of 8)

   Well, it's a bit difficult to give this issue a review, because it's almost impossible to talk about it without giving away key elements of the story.

   The series has been all about secrets revealed, providing some key changes in a few characters, and solving the mystery of the assassination of Uatu the Watcher.

   I've also been predicting all along that the issue would write the original Nick Fury out of the Marvel Universe - at least for now. (Adding to that belief was the recent elimination of Dum Dum Dugan in the Original Sins sidebar series).

   My "no spoilers" policy makes it impossible to talk about what happened, so let me instead look at the entire series.

   The artwork has been fabulous.

   The story was terrible. Its only accomplishment is killing off Uatu, one of the oldest characters in modern Marvel continuity, and the only reason for the death was for shock value.

   The whole thing just reads like fan fiction, where characters are given new, absurd backstories, others are killed for no reason, third-rate villains take center stage, and by the end no permanent (or worthwhile) change has taken place.

   In other words, you feel like you wasted your time.

   But the art is nice.

Grade: C-


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Classics - Neil the Horse #1

   You would be hard-pressed to find a more unusual, delightful, free-spirited comic book than Arn Saba's Neil the Horse Comics and Stories.

   Published in 1983 by Aarvark-Vanaheim press (best known for Cerebus), the comic was a cross between classic cartoons, film musicals and Pee-Wee's Playhouse.

   It followed the whimsical adventures of three characters: Neil, the lovable and optimistic horse who loves bananas; Soapy, the grouchy and conniving cat with the mangled syntax; and Mam'selle Poupee, the lovely woman who is a literal living doll.

    The issue is loaded with a variety of stories, poems, text stories, music scores, silent vignettes, comic strips and short adventures (including a trip to hell)!

    It's just a pure delight - from stories of our heroes racing across rooftops with suction cups on their feet to a paper doll dress-up page, it's just an amazing mix of sweetness and fun.

   Sadly, Neil didn't last long - only a couple of years - which is a shame. The world could always use more musical comedies, even in the silent pages of a classic comic book.

Grade: A


New Comics Today

   Here's what I picked up at the comics shop today:
- Avengers World #12 - All-out war!
- Batman '66 vs. Green Hornet #4 - Love those covers!
- Death of Wolverine #1 - Not again!
- Grendel vs Shadow #1 - Matt Wagner? I'm there.
- Justice League #33 - Love the Darwyn Cooke alternate cover.
- Miracleman #10 - What's up with the Kid?
- Original Sin #8 - Grumble grumble grumble.
- Rocket Raccoon #3 - Is there another Raccoon around?
- She-Hulk #8 - Defending an icon.
- Legendary Star-Lord #3 - Impossible escape!
- Usagi Yojimbo Senso #2 - Has this series veered into science fiction?
-  Uncanny X-Men #25 - Prof. X's biggest secret!
   And that's it!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Damsels in Excess #2

   Occasionally I run into a comic that brings the thought, "This isn't aimed at me."

   That's definitely the case with Damsels in Excess, a fantasy adventure that features five princesses, each representing a different realm - but when an ancient, mystic command calls for the death of one princess, they split apart, and two princesses must run for their lives.

   This definitely seems to be along the lines of the TV show Once Upon a Time, or perhaps Grimm or Sleepy Hollow or one of those fairy tale-based features. (I can't be sure, since I don't watch any of them.)

   There are certainly quite a few comics set in that sort of setting, and they have their own rabid fan bases.

   But I'm not really a member - as much as I enjoyed fantasy, I'm more of a Conan / Game of Thrones / Lord of the Rings kinda guy.

   So if you're into unicorns and magical realms and princesses who are friends and then mortal enemies, this might be the comic for you - but not me.

   As comics legend Don Thompson often said, "If you like that sort of thing, here it is."

Grade: B-


Monday, September 1, 2014

Brainstorm #1

   Ah, here's a concept guaranteed to generate some controversy.
   The new series Brainstorm is set in the near future, in a world where Climate Change has devastated the world, generating destructive storms on a regular basis.

   A team of scientists have developed a possible solution to the problem - but the government takes control of their creation, and then the real trouble begins.

   The story is written by a small army of writers and consultants - three get credit for the story, two did the scripting, the two others served as story consultants.

   On the other hand, the art and coloring is all by one guy - Dennis Calero - and it's quite good, with some interesting environmental effects on display.

   It's great to see a story that all science fiction - no superheroes on display here - but I'll leave it to others to debate the always-fiery Climate Change / Global Warming debate.

    I enjoy a good argument as much as the next guy, but this is a topic that generates a lot of anger on both sides, so I'm happy to let others get into that squabble.

   As for this comic, it's an interesting first issue, and I'm curious to see where it goes from here. There are lots of characters and concepts to be fleshed out, and I'm not how far the story can go with a lifeless protagonist - but they're off to a good start.

Grade: B