Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Top Ten Comics from 2014

   As 2014 evaporates, it’s time for your official Chuck’s Comic of the Day Top Ten Comics for 2014 list.

   First, the usual caveats: 
  1. Let the buyer beware. 
  2. Chuck doesn’t read every comic printed, so this is a list of - in his opinion, not yours - the best comics printed this year (that were read by Chuck). Your mileage may vary. 
  3. Feel free to share your list. You can post it in the comments below or email to us at and we’ll post it here. (We have an excellent one we’ll be posting tomorrow.)  
   Before we get to the list, let’s take care of the other rating first - the worst comic of the year. Often a difficult choice, we had a runaway winner this year: Avengers vs. X-Men: Axis #1. (I asked a guy at my comics shop who was buying a later issue if the series got any better after that first issue, and judging by the look I got, the answer is “no.”)

   Now, the runner-ups. These could have easily been one of the top ten, but were edged out by a nose. They include:
  • All-New X-Men
  • All-New Invaders
  • Batman
  • Little Nemo in Slumberland
  • Miracleman
  • Ms. Marvel
  • Real Heroes
  • She-Hulk
  • Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever
  • Superman / Wonder Woman
  • Winterworld
   Here are our winners, in reverse order:

10. Superman #32

  Surely Superman is the most famous super-hero in existence (closely trailed by Batman and Spider-Man, I assume).

   As such, it's surprising that his comic books tend to lag in both sales and (to be brutally honest) quality. It seems a long-term trend for DC to allow the Man of Steel to limp along for years (or decades), relying on his famous name to provide sufficient sales to keep the franchise moving.

   But occasionally the powers that be seem to realize that attention is needed, and they make the effort to bring on some top creators.

   That's what we have with this issue, as writer Geoff Johns takes control and immediately starts correcting some of the most grievous mistakes made to date.  So we see Clark Kent back in the offices of the Daily Planet, interacting with his classic supporting cast (or at least most of them).

   We also see a lot more of Superman in action, facing surprising opposition and possible competition. (My only complaint is that the story unfolding bears a strong resemblance to the one in the recent-and-still-unfinished Superman Unbound.)

   But the real treat with this issue is the art by long-time Marvel superstar John Romita, Jr., with Klaus Janson inking.

   Romita's one of the best in the business, with a powerful, unique style that manages to combine the raw energy of Jack Kirby, the fluid craftsmanship of John Buscema, and the composition and beauty of his father's work.

   The final result is a terrific comic, and the perfect jumping-on point for new readers.

   Highly recommended!


9. Astro City #14

   I really like this series.

   That's because Astro Citycombines great artwork with thoughtful, personal stories.

   And this issue features something else I'm crazy about: robots!

   It takes us on a visit to the robot museum, which is run by a kindly little old lady named Ellie.

   Over her many years, she has rescued robots that were damaged in superhero fights - so we get to see snippets from fights aver the decades, including some new and unique heroes.

   But there's a mystery at work here, and we're just beginning to get a picture of the real story behind Ellie and her mechanical friends.

   As always, the focus is on interesting characters and clever stories, and writer Kurt Busiek is at the top of his game.

   The art is also terrific, from the amazing Alex Ross cover to the fantastic interior work by Brent Eric Anderson.

   That's what's difficult about reviewing Astro City - you quickly run out of superlatives!

    So I'll just say that it's a terrific comic - one of my all-time favorites!


8. Hawkeye #19

  Thanks to Matt Fraction's writing and David Aja's excellent art, Hawkeyehas been an exceptional comic.

   The series has featured some smart, creative approaches to graphic storytelling - and this issue is no exception.

   After being in a brutal fight, Clint (Hawkeye) Barton is left without his hearing (again), while his brother Barney (also Hawkeye) Barton is confined to a wheelchair.

   We see their struggles through the experience of Clint, as he struggles to "hear" what's going on around him. I can't remember another story that so effectively captured what it's like to deal with that kind of impediment.

   It's a struggle, and Clint must decide how to deal with the war that's coming. Can he protect the residents in his apartment building - or is there another answer?

   This has been a terrific series, and I'm sorry to hear that it's drawing to a close soon. We need more comics that push the envelope like this - not fewer.


7. Usagi Yojimbo Color Special #5

  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!


6. Sandman: Overture #3

   I admit I was a bit lost at the beginning of this issue - it has been a while since the last issue (just over four months, to be exact).

   But as it's written by the exceptional Neil Gaiman, it doesn't take long to get back up to speed with Sandman: Overtures.

   It follows the title character (we call him Dream) as he embarks on a mysterious journey to the City of the Stars to solve the secret behind his "death."

   Along the way he meets some familiar (terrible) faces, makes a new friend, and is accompanied by an alternate version of Dream - this one in the shape of a giant cat.

   There are adventures and encounters aplenty along the way, and a special bedtime story. It's all clever and wonderful and pure magic.

   The art by J.H. Williams III is a pure delight, evoking alien, stunning landscapes, odd creatures, storybook settings and framing it all with unique, intelligent page designs and layouts like no others. Wonderful stuff!

   Look, I'm a mark for this kind of stuff - part fairy, tale part horror story, imagining a reality like no other (watch for the Easter Eggs, true believers)!

   I suspect most casual readers will find it easier to digest once it's all done and collected - but each issue is a gem, and longtime fans (like me) will be fine with waiting when the quality is so high.

   Highly recommended!


5. Saga #19

 As the first page in this issue clearly indicates, Saga is not a comic for children.

   But it is a wonderful, intelligent science fiction story that manages to be fresh and inventive issue after issue.

   I think the creative team has perhaps become too fascinated with creating shocking images (a few issues back it was full frontal nudity by a giant male - this issue it's... well, that splash page).

   That's their prerogative, of course - it's their comic - but it's so good it doesn't really need to lean on such things.

   The real secret of its success is the heart at the center of the story - more specifically, the love the mismatched couple - Marko and Alana - have for each other and their child, Hazel.

   The series is actually Hazel's story - she narrates it - and by this point she's a toddler, though her parents are still on the run - and it's a story filled with love, sacrifice and occasional heartbreak,

   From year to year, there's usually one comic that stands out as the one that would interest any reader - it's the comic you recommend to your friends who don't read comics. In the past, that has included Sandman and Swamp Thing, for example - and now you can add Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples' Saga to the list.


4. Daredevil #1

 I admit I had a pang of regret when I heard that the Daredevil run by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee was coming to an end.

    But it was a short-lived pang, as news quickly spread that the same team would be handling the "new" Daredevil (well, it's a new issue #1, at least).

   Matt Murdockhas once again relocated to San Francisco (he and the Black Widow moved there for a while in the early '70s, I believe), where he's establishing himself as an attorney - and a super-hero (with little concern about the secret identity thing, apparently).

   His first case is a tough one - a little girl has been captured, and even if he manages to rescue her from the kidnappers, she still might lose her life.

   The art is a pure delight. Samnee creates several full-page splashes that would be amazing works of art as stand-alone posters - that, and the high-speed, high-energy story elevates this comic to new heights.

   Waid's story is the perfect complement to the art, loading in emotional impact, action, adventure, humor and a smart script. (I love it when heroes have to use their brains to solve a problem - we just don't see enough of that these days.)

   It's no wonder this comic is one of Marvel's best - it's a great example of a comic living up to its full potential.

   This year marks the 50th Anniversary for ol' Hornhead - glad to see Marvel's doing him up right.


3. King Conan #1

  I've been looking forward to the return of the King Conanseries, as it reunites the team that is - in my opinion - the best writer / artist combination since the days when Roy Thomas and Barry Smith tackled the adventures of our favorite barbarian. 
   The latest team supreme includes writer Timothy Truman, who has really tapped into the essence of what makes Robert E. Howard's stories so compelling and entertaining - it's a great mix of action, adventure and intrigue. 

   The art is by Tomas Giorello (with color art by Jose Villarrubia), and his work is exceptional, breathing life into the Hyborean Age, creating architecture and vessels, bandits and monsters with equal skill. Each character radiates intense emotion, the action sequences are stunning and the costuming is spot on.    

   The story they're adapting is the second half of Howard's only novel-length adventure, Conan the Conqueror. The first half of the story (which wrapped s few months ago) told the story of how King Conan lost his crown, nearly lost his life, met his future wife, discovered the means to fight back against the powerful sorcerer who stands against him, and set out on a quest to recover the powerful artifact that can save his kingdom.

   The issue starts the second half of the story, wherein Conan continues his quest despite the powerful forces working against him.

   It's a terrific, red-blooded, no-holds-barred saga, brought to life by one of the best creative teams in the business. You really should be buying this comic!


2. The Avengers / New Avengers

   (A bit of a cheat to combine both series, but they're really connected and telling the same story.)

  Have you ever watched a master craftsman at work?

   Workers have been putting a new brick face on the building where I work, and it's amazing to see these guys at work, especially if you've ever tried it yourself.

   To apply mortar to a brick, place it exactly in line with others, or to cut a brick to fit a space - it's really tough to do if you're just a regular joe like me.

   But the craftsmen outside my window make it look easy - they pluck up a brick, apply mortar with a few quick movements of their trowel, and put it in place effortlessly.

   Which brings me to the latest issue of The Avengers, where we see Jonathan Hickman doing the same thing - building an impressive structure with what seems like no effort at all.

   But it's deceptive, of course. This issue brings together a number of threads that have been touched on over the last couple of years, as Tony Stark is forced to answer some direct questions posed by a very intelligent opponent.

   The events also dovetail into the struggles in New Avengers as we see the origin of a major-league menace. It's impressive to watch Hickman assembling this story, bit by bit, moment by moment, and create a riveting science fiction tale on a massive scale.

   Combined with the amazing art by Salvador Larroca, it's an impressive work of art and I can't wait to see where it goes from here. It's an involved story, and it's not always easy to follow as we wait for some aspects to be explained - but it's very, very good.


1. Multiversity: Thunderworld Adventures 

   (It's tough to choose a single issue of this series to highlight - Pax Americana was an amazing issue, focusing on a mashup of the Charlton heroes and Watchmen - but I love the upbeat feel to this issue, Thunderworld.)  

  In The Multiversity, writer Grant Morrison has been exploring the potential in DC's 52 (count 'em, 52) alternate universes, and the adventures so far have been mostly serious, deep and dark affairs.

   But with Thunderworld Adventures, he rips off the pretension of modern comics and offers up an adventure that is imaginative, exciting and just plain fun.

   Here we find the classic Captain Marvel (that's right, he goes by his proper name, not "Shazam"). It's the hero as he should be - updated into a modern superhero, tackling an overpowering menace with intelligence and humor.

   The issue begins with the wizard Shazam under attack by the evil scientist Sivana, who has joined forces with an army of familiar-looking villains. Toss in a super-powered Sivana family, the Marvel family, lots of villains and a threat to reality (plus some fun with time travel) and you get a fresh, fantastic story.

   Add in the powerful and fresh art by Cameron Stewart, and you have a captivating, not-to-be-missed comic.

   Stacked on the shelf alongside the usual tomes of grim and gruesome antics, it's like a blast of fresh air - a fun, hope-filled adventure starring honest-to-goodness heroes.

   Why can't this be a monthly title? The comics industry - and each fan - needs this in the worst way.


New Comics Day is Mighty Lean!

   It's slim pickings today at the ol' comics shop, as the companies cut back to a skeleton crew for the holidays!

   I picked up:

- Miracleman Annual #1 - New stories - one by Morrison and the other by Allred!

- S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 - It's based on the (quite excellent) TV series, written by Mark Waid - sounds like a winner to me!

   And that's it!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Daredevil #11

   Just how good is the Mark Waid / Chris Samnee team on Daredevil?

   They can take the most obscure villains and craft excellent stories around them.

   Our example today is The Stunt-Master, who started life in 1969 as a knockoff of legendary stunt cyclist Evel Knievel (I assume). He popped up in a few issues and eventually faded away into obscurity.

   So seeing him on the cover of this issue is a bit of a surprise - but the story inside is the real delight.

   Finding a way to update the character for modern audiences, giving Matt Murdock a reason to get involved and coming up with a reason for a confrontation is all handled with great care and a lot of cleverness.

   The art, as always, is terrific, charged with kinetic energy, smart visuals and stunning layouts.

   This is another comic that has earned its spot in our "Top Ten for 2014" list (as you'll see in tomorrow's post).

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A-


Monday, December 29, 2014

Doc Savage Special 2014: Woman of Bronze

   As a big fan of the pulp hero Doc Savage, I sometimes make the mistake of picking up publications featuring the Man of Bronze without really looking over the contents.

   Like with this "Special."

   First of all, there's precious little of Doc in this issue - as the title indicates, it actually focuses on Doc's cousin, Pat Savage.

   Which would be fine, if there was an actual story going on here. Instead, Pat is assigned to babysit a young girl, is attacked by kidnappers, there are several fights, she chases them... you can guess the rest.

   The whole purpose of David F. Walker's story seems to be to find a reason for Pat's shirt to get ripped up (a problem her cousin often faces).

   I realize I'm a geezer, but my first thought as artist Kewber Baal offers up some lovely images of Pat's ample cleavage was: didn't women wear bras in the 1930s?

   As a regular issue of Doc's adventures this issue would be tolerable. Padded out into a "Special" issue, weighing in at $7.99 (for 46 pages), it's just not worth the investment.

   Even if you're a big fan (that should say: especially if you're a fan).

Grade: C-


Sunday, December 28, 2014

New Avengers #28

   Time for some quick reviews to wrap up 2014 and clear the way for our "Top Ten for 2014" list.

   One of the comics on that top 10 list will be Hickman's New Avengers and Avengers series, as this issue indicates.

   It ups the ante nicely, as three Avengers team collide and we see Steve Rogers and Reed Richards playing chess, each one waging war and trying to outmaneuver his opponent.

   It's well written with stunning art by Mike Deodato and Mike Perkins. What more could you ask?

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Fantastic Four #14

   So finally the person behind the downfall of the Fantastic Four has been revealed.

   Guess what? It's Mopee.

   (Not really.)

   But there are similarities.

   For those lucky enough to have missed the story, Mopee was an other-dimensional character who popped up in a Silver Age issue of The Flash (#167) and claimed he had given the speedster his superpowers.

   It was a story so hated by fans that it was never mentioned again (outside of comedy bits in Ambush Bug).

   We're treading on the same ground here, as the mysterious villain claims to have been around since before the team was created (his motivation for hating the team is not very convincing) and he implies that he is responsible for some of the team's past struggles.

   Maybe so, maybe not. But if it turns out he's telling the truth, don't be surprised if this story fades away just like Mopee.

   But this may be unfair - writer James Robinson still has one more issue to wrap this story up convincingly. But so far - aside from Leonard Kirk's excellent art - this incarnation of the team has been a huge disappointment so far.

Grade: C+


Friday, December 26, 2014

Bad Times: Book Two: Blood Red Tide

   Comic fans have been following Chuck Dixon's hard-hitting work for decades, as he's written everything from Batman to the Punisher, Airboy and G. I. Joe (among dozens of other titles).

   These days he's kept busy with the excellent Wimterworld - but he's also made his mark writing novels, including a new series that fits right in to his bare knuckles approach.

    The Bad Times series is a terrific combination of science fiction, historical adventure and modern military action all rolled into one fast-paced novel. 

   The first book (Cannibal Gold) established the rules of time-travel for an odd mix of scientists, engineers and former Soldiers. 

   Now cut off from their sponsor, the team must carve its own path in the world, and that begins with a journey to the Mediterranean and a hunt for a long-lost treasure. 

   That search lands the team in the middle of a different kind of warfare and a desperate fight for survival. 

   The story features some shocking twists and turns along the way and makes smart use of its premise. 

   One of the many things I like about the series is (perversely enough) that the modern-day explorers / fighters keep underestimating their ancestors. Considering the unforgiving world  of those bygone days, we should give them a little more credit - and this series spells that out in spades. 

   A heck of a fun ride - part science fiction, part Punisher, part Conan! 

   I can’t wait to read the third volume!

Grade: A


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Superman #37

   Merry Christmas!

   Hope you're having a great holiday, dear reader (whichever holiday you prefer to observe)!

   Just a reminder that on Dec. 31 I'll be sharing my "Top Ten Comics for 2014" list, and you're welcome to send in your own rundown.

   Just email them to us at this address: - or you can send in a comment via the link at the bottom of each post.

   Now, back to our regularly scheduled post:


   Give credit to writer Geoff Johns and artists John Romita, Jr. and Klaus Janson - they've devised a suitably oversized story to kick off their run on Superman.

   It revolves around the Man of Steel's encounter with another super-man - an earth man named Ulyssess who was sent to another world as an infant, where he gained powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.

  For several issues the two have become friends, but now the real goal behind Ulysses' mission has been revealed, and for all his power, it may be beyond Superman's abilities to stop.

   They're operating on a big scale here, with the lives of millions of people - and a planet's existence - hanging in the balance.

   It's all in Romita's wheelhouse, as he channels Kirby and Buscema - you'll see titans collide and cities crumble.

   And it's good to see a Superman who's trying to save everyone - unlike the character in a certain recent movie I could name.

   (Sorry, couldn't resist the easy shot.)

Grade: A-


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Classics - The Avengers #7

   While Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were creative forces of nature, sometimes they stumbled a bit.

   But even those issues can make an impression.

   This issue of Avengers from 1964 is a great example. After several killer issues in the series, this comic was loaded with improbable events.

   For example:

   - The Avengers suspend Iron Man's membership for a week because he failed to respond to a recent call from the team.

   - Odin punishes the Executioner and the Enchantress by exiling them to Earth (yep, they'll cause no problems there). Thanks, All-Father!

   - They join forces with Baron Zemo to form the second version of the Masters of Evil. The Executioner somehow disguises himself as a Baron Strucker lookalike, but somehow manages to hide his 7-foot-tall frame behind a mask.

   - Cap travels to the Amazon, fights Zemo's army, they flies back to New York while hanging on the outside of Zemo's aircraft. What a guy!

   - Thor falls for the oldest trick in the book, and the Enchantress casts a spell that turns him against his teammates.

   And that was the scene that made such an impact on 8-year-old me. Caught in the spell, Thor imagines Iron Man, Cap, Giant-Man and the Wasp as horrible, nightmarish villains. It was a scary image!

   What follows is a raw battle between Thor and his teammates - and young me wondered how they were going to stand against a fighting mad Asgardian!

   The wrap-up to the story is as silly and convenient as the rest of the issue - but I love this comic!

   Perhaps it was the fight between former allies (one of the first such fights I had seen), perhaps it was the great Kirby art (here inked by the excellent Chic Stone), perhaps it was the clever bits of business scattered throughout (Cap training with a group of professional wrestlers is a lot of fun), and perhaps it was Cap's amazing battle with an army in the Amazon.

   It's a bit slim on the story side, with the usual fantastic dialogue by Stan - but it's still a beloved issues of The Avengers (at least by me) because of the impact it had on my young mind.

   Just further proof that, while they can't all be winners, with the right craftsmanship, seasoned pros can move past the weaknesses of a story and keep your attention focused on the series, instead of an individual issue.

Grade: B




'Twas the New Comics Day Before Christmas...

   Everyone ready for the holiday? (As usual, I finished my shopping last night. I also started my shopping last night.) 

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

- New Avengers #28Friend against friend against friend.

- Daredevil #11 - The return of the Stunt-Master?

- Doc Savage Specisl #1 - Pat Savage strikes back!
- Flash #37 - Mass murder!
- Invaders #13 - A cosmic history lessons - and a mystery.
- She-Hulk #11 - Time for a brawl.
- Superman #37 - The secret behind the Great World.
- All-New X-Men Annual #1 - More adventures in time travel.
- Uncanny X-Men #29 - The unstoppable mutant.
   And that's it!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cap Stone #1

   I tend to admire comics that take an original approach to a story - and this one does that in spades.

   Cap Stone is the story of superhero Captain Stone. He's gone missing, and no one knows what happened to him.

   The thing is, he's also missing in this comic. Instead, it follows the story of a young woman who lives a strange, solitary (and somewhat disturbing) existence.

   She recounts her story, including her odd relationship with her father (who has some less-than-legal side interests) and her reasons for dropping off the grid.

   But as to how she's connected to Cap - well, you'll have to uncover that on your own.

   Writers Christina McCormack and Liam Sharp have crafted a twisty,  disturbing but compelling story here, and you'll be hard pressed to keep from turning up for the next chapter. (By the way, this comic is not one for kids.)

   The art is also by Sharp, and it's an interesting style, very reminiscent of Bill Sienkiewicz's paintings, with stylized art images next to unique characterizations.

   There aren't too many comics around that offer a truly unique vision. Here's one now!

Grade: A-


Monday, December 22, 2014

Batman #37

   I really want to like this issue.

   It's loaded with great art by Greg Capullo and Danny Miki. It features the return of the Joker, who has somehow managed to overcome the loss of his face (he hasn't looked as good in quite a few years, actually). He's unleashed a scheme of mass destruction on Gotham City, and even Batman seems overwhelmed by the task at hand.

   So what's not to like? Well...

   It all comes down to the story,  and it bothers me that it makes no sense. I know, it's part of the Joker's scheme - but at some level, it has to have an element of logic and the real world.

   So we start with Batman paralyzed and forced to witness Gotham's citizens infected by a version of the Joker virus that makes them all go insane. Commissioner Gordan is helping coordinated an attempt to find a cure, but he must face the Joker alone. Or does he?

   Batman confronts his oldest foe - or does he? The nightmares are mixed in with the nightmarish reality and it's difficult to tell what's real and what's hallucination.

   All of which makes it difficult to really care about the story. If anything can happen, does anything matter? What is the Joker's scheme and how does he manage to create so many bio-weapons? Since he was able to enslave the Justice League, is there anything he can't do?

   Like too many stories these days, it all feels like fan fiction, where the rules don't apply and anything goes, no matter how outrageous.

  We expect a it more self-restraint (and real world logic) in the Dark Knight's adventures.

Grade: B


Sunday, December 21, 2014

All-New X-Men #34

   We know that Brian Michael Bendis is the master of decompressed stories (in other words, taking a story and stretching it over numerous issues), and the current story certainly qualifies.

   It seems to be taking forever to make any progress on the story - but that's because each issue has to cover each member of the team. The original X-Men team members (and X-23) have been separated (mostly) and sent into the Ultimate universe, where they discover a world that's very different - but with some amazing similarities.

   It's fun to see each hero - Iceman, the Beast, Marvel Girl, the Angel and X-23 - fight for their lives, face deadly foes and discover unexpected allies.

   It's true, the story is moving at a snail's pace - but it is a lot of fun to see the team deal with this strange new world.

   The art by Mahmud Asrar is excellent, with an intense double-page splash driving home the alien nature of this new world.

   The question is, how long can this story continue? At the rate it's moving, it could be six months before the team gets back together. Of course, as long as each issue is as much fun as this one, you won't find many readers who'll complain.

Grade: A-


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Shadow Show #2

   Fans often refer to the classic "A-B-C's" of science fiction - meaning the authors "Asimov - Bradbury - Clarke."

   All three were groundbreaking giants of the industry and they (and many more) deserve much more credit than they typically receive.

   That's why I'm glad to see this series from IDW. Shadow Show features comic adaptations of stories written to honor the memory of (and work by) Ray Bradbury.

   This issue features two stories - the first written by Neil Gaiman and adapted by writer Mort Castle and artist Maria Frohlich. It feels like a story by Bradbury, with its evocative imagery and heart-rending depiction of a man who is losing touch with the world.

   It includes touchstones to numerous stories, concepts and characters by Bradbury - an elegant tale.

   The second story is by writer Audrey Niffennegger (adapted by the author) with art by Eddie Campbell. It's a sad, subtle story about a daughter and her father on what may be their final trip together - a Bradbury-like story of life, the decisions we make and the impermanence of time.

   I like this series a lot - and anything that honors the master and brings more readers to his work is great in my book.

Grade: A-


Friday, December 19, 2014

Sandman Overture #4

   Ho-hum, another terrific issue of Sandman Overture, the prequel to the classic series.

   Written by Neil Gaiman with art by J. H. Williams III, it's another mind-bending chapter following Dream (with two companions) in his search for the answer to a mystery - an answer that involves living stars and a curse of madness.

   At the same time, we see a meeting between the title character and... well, that would be telling. But longtime readers will be shocked (and then another character is referenced to compound that)!

   It takes some patience to follow this series - they're averaging about four months between issues - but boy howdy, is it worth the wait.

   The artwork is just stunning - each page looks like it should be hanging in a gallery somewhere.

   Look, if you're familiar with the series, you know what to expect - terrific storytelling, a mind-bending story and great art.

   And if you're not familiar with the Sandman stories, what great stories you have ahead of you!

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A


Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Multiversity: Thunderworld Adventures #1

   We're rapidly approaching the end of the year when I pick my favorite comics for 2014 - but don't be surprised when you see this issue in the top 10 (heck, it may be #1)!

   In The Multiversity, writer Grant Morrison has been exploring the potential in DC's 52 (count 'em, 52) alternate universes, and the adventures so far have been mostly serious, deep and dark affairs.

   But with Thunderworld Adventures, he rips off the pretension of modern comics and offers up an adventure that is imaginative, exciting and just plain fun.

   Here we find the classic Captain Marvel (that's right, he goes by his proper name, not "Shazam"). It's the hero as he should be - updated into a modern superhero, tackling an overpowering menace with intelligence and humor.

   The issue begins with the wizard Shazam under attack by the evil scientist Sivana, who has joined forces with an army of familiar-looking villains. Toss in a super-powered Sivana family, the Marvel family, lots of villains and a threat to reality (plus some fun with time travel) and you get a fresh, fantastic story.

   Add in the powerful and fresh art by Cameron Stewart, and you have a captivating, not-to-be-missed comic.

   Stacked on the shelf alongside the usual tomes of grim and gruesome antics, it's like a blast of fresh air - a fun, hope-filled adventure starring honest-to-goodness heroes.

   Why can't this be a monthly title? The comics industry - and each fan - needs this in the worst way.

Grade: A