Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top Ten Comics of 2015

   As 2015 sputters to a close, it’s time for your official Chuck’s Comic of the Day Top Ten Comics for 2015 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 on this site. 
   Before we get to the list, let’s take care of the other rating first - the worst comic of the year. There were several good contenders, but the winner is Justice League of America #5. It’s put together professionally, but earns “worst of” honors because it was a fill-in comic in the middle of Bryan Hitch’s run on that series. And nowhere on it does it apologize for the “Dreaded Deadline Doom” or any of the usual comments - they just threw it out there, assuming no one would notice. 

   Now, to the runner-ups for our “Best of” list. These could have easily been one of the top ten, but were edged out by a nose. They include:
  • Archie 
  • Astro City 
  • Captain America White 
  • Doctor Who: Four Doctors 
  • Groo: Friends and Foes 
  • Hawkeye 
  • Johnny Red
  • Little Nemo in Slumberland
  • Justice League 
  • Justice League of America
  • Ninjak 
  • Ragnarok 
  • Saga 
  • Surface Tension
  • The Troop
  • Uncanny Inhumans
  • We Can Never Go Home
  • WinterWorld: Frozen Fleet
      Here are our winners, in reverse order:

10. Usagi Yojimbo: Senso 

   After a brief absence from the scene, Usagi Yojimbo returned in this miniseries (and soon will be back in his own series) - and what a welcome return it is!

   Writer / artist Stan Sakai really pulled out the stops for Senso - which pits Usagi and his friends and foes against a War of the Worlds-style invasion that threatens death and total destruction.

   But if you've read the original story, or seen the movie(s), don't think you've already seen this one. Just when you think you know where it's headed, it takes some surprising, chilling turns.

   To say too much would be a disservice, but this is a comic that no fan of Usagi should miss.

   It's a masterful work by an amazing craftsman - highly recommended!

9. Twilight Children 

 There are certain comics that fans (like yours truly) will buy just on the strength of the names of the creative team - and a comic that brings together Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke is a “must-buy.”

   So I’ve been following The Twilight Children  - and both of the creators, happily, are living up to their “living legend” status. 

   The four-part series focuses on the people on a small tropic island - and the mysterious events that have changed lives, including a large, mysterious orb of light that pops up in the darndest places.

   It’s a series loaded with rich characters, from the inquisitive scientist who finds more than he bargains for, to the hot housewife who always gets what she wants, to her jealous lover, the irritated sheriff and an exotic woman who may not be from our planet.

   It’s a lot of fun trying to unravel the puzzles, and the story keeps you happily off-balance.

   The art is wonderful. Cooke is a tremendous artist, of course, but each page just ripples with energy and life and spirit. His style is unique and delightful.

   So where is the series going? I have no idea. Isn’t that great?

8. S.H.I.E.L.D. 

   Leave it to writer Mark Waid to throw us some curves.

   So we have S.H.I.E.L.D. (which stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement Logistics Division) waging a war against a powerful mystic opponent that's usually reserved for Dr. Strange.

   But the good Doc (who shared space with S.H.I.E.L.D. in the pages of Strange Tales in the 1960s) has been taken out of action, along with every other magical hero - so it's up to Phil Coulson and his agents to find a way to save the world.

   What I love about this series (other than the sharp writing and excellent artwork) is that Coulson and his agents are very smart, and use their intelligence - and  S.H.I.E.L.D. assets - to win the day.

   This series, in addition to tying into the excellent TV series, also serves as a team-up comic, as the agents work with different super-heroes (and sometimes super-villains) to win the day.

   It's a heck of a lot of fun - if you've missed it so far, you really should be reading this comic. 

7. Star Wars 

   So the big trick in creating a Star Wars series that takes place between the existing films is not violating the existing continuity.

   But this comic seems to have no concerns about that - so we see Luke Skywalker confronting Darth Vader long before their eventual (and epic) battle in The Empire Strikes Back.

   So the die-hard fans may object to the way this issue plays out - but for the rest of us, it's loaded with hoo-hah action and adventure.

   The story centers around the attempts by the Rebellion (in this case, Luke, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO) to destroy one of the Empire's main weapons-making facilities.

   But they find their efforts blocked by an army of Stormtroopers, led by Vader.

   The story by Jason Aaron works perfectly with the stunning artwork by John Cassaday - as a long-time fan, I just kept smiling through the whole story. The next one can't get here fast enough!

    Oh, and let me just add: continuity schmontinuity.

6. Daredevil 

   It's the humor.

   That's the secret behind the success of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee's run on Daredevil.

   Well, that and the fact that they're telling great stories with interesting characters and fantastic art.

   But it's the humor that was missing before they came on board.

   This issue had all the earmarks of a tragic tale, as Matt goes public with the fact that he's in love.

   That hasn't gone well in the past - it's a deadly occupation, being Daredevil's sweetie.

   But give Waid and Samnee credit - they find a fresh spin on the topic, and take the story in unexpected directions - all while keeping a smile on our face.

   As should be obvious by now, if you're not buying this series, you're making a terrible mistake. It's one of the best in the business.

5. Sandman Overture 

 Finally, just shy of two years from its beginning, we arrive at the end (and, happily enough, the beginning) for The Sandman.

   This Overture mini-series by Neil Gaiman, J. H. Williams III and Dave Stewart has been a delightful (if twisty) return visit to Gaiman's legendary character.

    The story is appropriately big, visiting Dream's siblings - and his parents (!) - and placing the existence of... well, everything... at stake, and the survival of all rests in Dream's hands.

   It's all a prequel to the original series created by Gaiman, as the finale gives us the answer to how Dream ended up a prisoner of a mortal way back in Sandman #1.

   The art is amazing - each page (and that stunning cover) should be hanging in a museum somewhere.

   If you've missed this one, I suspect it'll read much better as a collection, but (perversely) if you haven't read the Sandman stories yet, you should read those first, then tackle this prequel.

   Trust me, it makes more sense that way (this series refers to characters that work better if you know more about them).

   What more do you need? Highly, highly recommended!

4. Avengers / New Avengers 

   Like last year, I’m cheating by combining these two series - but they actually tell one story that leads into Secret Wars, as written by Jonathan Hickman.

   New Avengers - What's not to like about a battle between the New Avengers team of gods and a mysterious (and possibly invincible) cosmic opponent?

   This issue absolutely kicks arse, in a Seven Samurai-style showdown at the edge of the universe.

   I commented recently that I wasn't crazy about Jonathan Hickman's take on Dr. Strange (everyone has a weak spot), but I love his take on Thor, who's been showing his true warrior potential in the series (unlike his own title, which has been taken over by an impostor).

   There's a scene in here that made me laugh out loud with pure delight. You'll know it when you see it. There are also grim, sad moments, and amazing art by Mike Deodato.

   Great, great comic!

   Avengers -  OK, the cover to this issue threw me.

   I thought: maybe they forgot to get someone to draw a cover, so they reused the one Bryan Hitch drew for the first issue of The Ultimates.

    But as you read the issue, you realize there actually is a connection to the Ultimate universe, as the various alternate universes continue to draw together.

   There's actually very little Avenger content here, as we see what happens to the evil Cabal (they were caught in a world-destroying death trap when last we saw them) and a new destructive force enters the picture.

   This series just keeps amping up the tension, and with just three months to go, the reader could be forgiven for beginning to wonder how the Marvel universe can survive.

    It's another fantastic story by writer Jonathan Hickman and amazing art by Mike Deodato - what an amazing, mature, complex tale they're weaving here. Highly recommended!

3. Secret Wars 

     After a solid start for the Secret Wars series, we’re finally getting some solid answers about the origins of Battleworld.

   Why is Dr. Doom in charge (and apparently a god)? Why is Dr. Strange his second-in-command? How long has Battleworld been around? What happened to the heroes and villains who tried to escape the final destruction of Earth-616 and the Ultimate Earth (1610)? And where is Reed Richards?

   The key to managing a series loaded with mysteries is to cut the readers some slack and actually give them some info to chew on.

   Don’t worry - there are still loads of mysteries to be unraveled.

   I admit, I'm not reading most of the spin-off series - but this comic is so well written and so strongly realized, I don't feel like I'm missing anything.

   The art by Esad Ribic and the writing by Jonathan Hickman is terrific - and the sheer magnitude of creating what is, for all intents and purposes, an all-new Marvel Universe, is simply stunning in its complexity. An impressive accomplishment!

   The slam on the original Secret Wars maxi-series was that the story was simplistic. You'll find no such complaints here.

2. Sculptor 

   When Scott McCloud speaks - or releases a new graphic novel - attention must be paid.

   And Sculptor is well worth your time and attention.

   It's the unique story of David Smith, an artist who is going through a rough patch. He came close to great success, but fell short, and he wonders if his career is over.

   That's when David receives an unusual offer from Death itself - incredible sculpting powers, but in 200 days, his life ends.

   What follows is an incredible roller-coaster of life and career, as David finds his muse renewed - but will it result in fame and fortune?

   His personal life also takes some unexpected twists and turns. It's a riveting story that unfolds over more than 500 pages of stunning, compelling art.

   McCloud has written several excellent books about the comics art form, and here he demonstrates his mastery of it, manipulating time, focus, emotion and environment to maximum effect.

   His art builds its own reality, and captures life in New York in amazing detail, from grungy apartments to alleys and rooftops and modern museums.

   This is a story that offers so much to the reader - surprises, heartbreak, ingenuity, passion.

   It's a mature tale, so I can't recommend it for young readers, but for everyone else, this graphic novel gets my highest recommendation.

1. Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1 

   Despite its serious tone, this issue of Multiversity had me smiling a lot.

   That's because this issue is trying to get into your head - and it succeeds!

   It's something comics have been trying to do for a long time. In the late 1980s I interviewed DC editor Julius Schwartz and he talked about the importance of a strong cover to generate sales.

   He said one of the comics that had strong sales was an issue of The Flash in the '60s that featured a closeup of that hero, holding up his hand and saying (in huge letters) "STOP! Don't pass up this issue! My life depends on it!"

   So here we have writer Grant Morrison, who has (with this series) been playing the comics medium like a maestro, going totally meta.

   So we meet the hero Ultra, who talks to you, the reader.

   I know, it sounds silly - but it's so artfully done that you have to admire the way the story gets in your head, playing with your concept of how comics work and how you react to them.

   It doesn't hurt that the finely-crafted art is by Doug Mahnke (with three inkers), one of the best in DC's stable.

   This issue will keep you guessing throughout. You might even be tempted to put it down without finishing it - but it would take a stronger person that me to manage that.

   Just wonderful!


    So that wraps up 2015 - a pretty good year for comics! If you’d like to share your own “Top Ten” list, feel free to send it the our email - - or place it in the comments below. 

   Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Classic Comics - Thor #158 and #159

    As I mentioned in this reviewThor's first appearance in 1962 only provided him with a partial origin. 

   When Dr. Don Blake on vacation in Norway,  he finds an ancient walking stick in a cave. When he strikes a rock with it, he's transformed into The Mighty Thor, with all the powers of the legendary god - but otherwise he seems to think and talk like Blake.

   That changed over the months following, as Thor met other mythological characters like Loki and Odin (and expressed no surprise at the meeting), and even his speech patterns become more regal, more Shakespearean. (How I miss those "Thees" and "Thous!")

   So was he Dr. Don Blake with Thor's powers, or the God of Thunder wearing a human disguise? And which came first?

   The answer finally arrived six years later, as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby finally got around to telling the real origin of Thor.

   For me, this issue hit out of the blue. For several issues before it, Thor had been fighting a desperate battle in Asgard against the incredibly powerful Mangog. That story wrapped up in Thor #157 - an issue I missed!

   When I picked up #158, I thought it was the final exciting chapter in the fight - instead, the splash panel pictured Thor returning to Earth! I clearly remember thinking, "What the hell?"

   None of which is to take away from this story, which actually provides some keen insight into Thor's personality - and why Odin decided he needed to humble the brash God of Thunder by tying his fate to that of a lame physician whose life is dedicated to helping the sick.

   The story continued over two issues, wrapping up quite satisfactorily in issue #159, in a story titled "The Answer At Last!"

   Lee and Kirby were really cooking on all burners by this point, providing Thor amazing adventures, covering the superhero, science fiction and fantasy genres with equal ease.

   They had built a terrific supporting cast (mostly made up of his Asgardian family and allies), a formidable love interest in Sif, and a never-ending array of powerful villains to confront.

   It was a golden age for one of my all-time favorite heroes!

Grade: A


New Comic Book Day

   I didn't make it to the comics shop today (the real world got in the way) - but here's what I planned to pick up (tomorrow for sure):

- Captain America White #5 

- Flash #47 

- Justice League #47 

- Ragnarok #7 

- Squadron Supreme #2 

   And that's it! 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Thanos: The Infinity Relativity

   Since I'm a huge fan of Jim Starlin's work on Warlock in the '70s and '90s, I'm really happy to see he's back again, handling the fate of that character and his even-more-famous creation, Thanos.

   (Starlin also created two of the Guardians of the Galaxy featured in the graphic novel - Gamora and Drax the Destroyer.)

   Starlin's spending quite a bit of his energy dealing with storylines that have been left dangling over the decades, and that seems to be the focus of this trilogy of original graphic novels, written and drawn by Starlin.

   So following The Infinity Revelation is The Infinity Relativity, which brings (well, I started to say "our heroes," but we can't call Thanos a hero) the lead characters into conflict with a new, deadlier version of Annihilus, the despot from the Negative Zone who plans to lead a vast armada of giant insects into the conquest (or destruction) of life in our universe.

      But at the heart of the story is the mystery behind the newly-resurrected Adam Warlock - he's exhibiting amazing new powers and insights - and Thanos holds the key.

   Part of the story is devoted to gathering the disparate players, and part to a heck of a battle royal with Annihilus. And if you think you know how it's going to end, you're in for a surprise.

   The series - so far - hasn't quite managed to reach the trippy, mind-bending levels of the original series, but there's another chapter to go, and the story is a powerful one.

   Can't wait for the final chapter (which will hopefully lead to more regular appearances by Warlock)!

Grade: A


Monday, December 28, 2015

Daredevil #2

   It always comes back to Frank Miller.

   Certainly one of the most influential periods in Daredevil's history were the issues written and drawn by Miller, and - like the NetFlix television series - the new version of that hero's adventures also leans heavily on the style and themes of Miller's run.

   As long as it's done well, I have no problem with that.

   And so far, writer Charles Soule and artist Ron Garney have been nailing it.

   They're telling a "street level" story about Daredevil - and Matt Murdock's - efforts to bring down a vicious gang in Chinatown.

   Murdock is now working for the District Attorney, trying to bring down the bad guys within the legal system - while DD takes a more direct approach.

   It's raw, powerful and high-energy, with lots of surprises along the way.

   I also like DD's new "assistant" - Blindspot - a superhero in training.

   The story's just getting started, so it remains to be seen if this story will reach the heights of Miller's run - but it's off to a good start.

Grade: A-


What Were the Best Comics of 2015?

   A reminder that New Year's Eve I'll be running my own list for the "Top 10 Comics for 2015."

   If you'd like to share your own list, go for it! You can either email it to us at or post it in the comments below, and I'll share it with the world!

   I guarantee that no two lists will look alike!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat #1

   There are characters that I like but I'm hard-pressed to explain why.

   Patsy Walker is one such character. She has a long history with Marvel - allow me to quote my summary from a review in 2008 (it's rerun season) with some minor updates:


   Patsy started her comic book career as the title character in a teen comic, styled in the vein of of Archie Comics. She and her pal Hedy even made a cameo appearance in Fantastic Four Annual #3, wherein Reed and Sue were married. 

   She reappeared in, of all places, the short-lived series that starred the newly-furry former X-Man, The Beast. She followed him into The Avengers, where she took ownership of The Cat's costume and renamed herself Hellcat (which seems odd, since she's such a good girl that you wouldn't expect her to say the word "hell." This is the hero who says "Jeepers," after all). 

   From there she eventually made her way into The Defenders, and after that it all gets kind of fuzzy, but I believe she married the Son of Satan (never a good career move) and was eventually killed. Silly, I know. 

   Thankfully, Kurt Busiek cashed in some reincarnation chips and Patsy was reborn as her flighty, fun-loving old self. She's made some guest appearances and was featured in a few mini-series over the years, and she guest-starred in other books, including the recent She-Hulk title.

   Which brings us (more or less) up to date.


   Now Patsy has her own title, an all-ages book that's  - well, the word "different" springs to mind. 

   She loses her job working as an investigator for She-Hulk's law firm, she makes a new friend, runs into an old friend, makes a shocking discovery and makes a surprising plan for her future.

   This is an all-ages comic (though it feels more like a teen comic) - it's very much in the style of DC's Batgirl, with expressive art, lots of humor and an upbeat, fast-paced feel to it.

   It's not exactly aimed at a geezer like me, but it's fun and it's great to see a "lighter" title lining up against all the grim competition.

   I also like that the series is tying together the character's history and cast. There's a lot of potential here, and I hope this will bring Hellcat into the forefront of the Marvel Universe.

   We'll see!

Grade: B


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #2

   There were concerns about this series in fandom.

   The first Dark Knight series is justly recognized as a classic story - one that changed the industry.

   The sequel was almost universally reviled, despite featuring the same creative team.

   So what to expect this time around from Dark Knight III: The Master Race?

   So far... it's very good!

   Written by original creator Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello, this issue focuses on two stories - one about the recently-captured "Batman" - who is actually (I assume) the grown-up Robin from the original Dark Knight series; and the other about a new threat being released onto the world - one that seems much too big for even a Batman in his prime.

   There's also a "mini-comic" included that gives us some insight on Wonder Woman and her newest challenges.

   The series works because it feels more like a natural continuation of the DC universe - in other words, it follows in the footsteps of the original series.

   The art by Andy Kubert and Klaus Jansen is tremendous, capturing the feel of Miller's original style without being a slavish imitation.

   The same is true for the art in the mini-comic by Eduardo Risso - it's excellent work.

   So if you've been hiding from this series, you might want to reconsider - so far, it feels like the original.

Grade: A-


Friday, December 25, 2015

Justice League of America #6

      After last issue's fill-in issue, it's nice to see Bryan Hitch back in the saddle, writing and drawing this ever-growing story about the Kryptonian god Rao and his attempts to change the Earth.

   Of course, the Justice League of America figure out that this would-be savior isn't all he seems - but they're scattered across time and space, and there are many mysteries to solve.

   As always, the art is "wide screen" with some amazing, powerful sequences.

   The story's still a bit of a slog - we can see where it's heading (more or less), but it seems to keep veering off-course, as we duck down side alleys. (Why is the Flash in 1961? Why the attack on Olympus?)

   Of course, it might all pull together by the end - but there are lots of loose threads to gather.

   Oh, and ignore that cover - there's no Batman in this story.

Grade: B+


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Guest Review: The Private Eye: The Cloudburst Edition Hardcover

   How's this for a great Christmas present? A long-time pal of mine (we don't say "old pal" at our age) sent in this guest review to give me a day off during the holiday. He prefers to remain Anonymous - so thanks, Anon! He writes:

   I am not a gambler. I’m bad at math and I don’t like losing hard-earned money. I recently took a $50 gamble on The Private Eye: The Cloudburst Edition Hardcover, published by Image. 

   I’m pleased to report that this gamble paid off. Is this book worth $50? Absolutely, if you like your science fiction in a near future format, brightly colored artwork, and a plot that pays respect to classic film noir movies, but also modernizes every aspect of the story. 

   Brian K. Vaughn’s writing makes this bet the least risky. Known for such great writing as Saga, Y: The Last Man as well as some cutting edge television programming, Vaughn takes us to a world that is both familiar and strange at the same time.

   Marcos Martin, who seems to be the heir apparent to great Steve Ditko, leads the art. If you missed his Spider-Man run, you need to get it. Martin makes full use of this hardcover’s widescreen format for maximum effect.

   Marcos’ art also helps with the story’s setting, which is a brilliant commentary on today’s Information Age. After the “Cloudburst” (when everyone’s most secret information was made public when the Cloud broke), the people in this future all wear mask and costumes to hide their identity. These disguises range from a hood and bullet mask to holographic projections. 

   With the twists and turns of both film noir and science fiction, the reader enjoys a wild ride that does pay off, but, of course, not in the way you expect. 

   I’d suggest that you would enjoy The Private Eye more than a big stack of the new $4 comic books that most folks are making these days. But, then again, what do I know?

   NOTE – Some folks read comics online, which is weird to me. The Private Eye originally appeared as an online comic, which can be found at

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

"Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens" - Movie Review

  I had to hold off a few days to see Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens so I could see it with my entire family (including my two sons and their wives) - I believe it's the first Star Wars movie I didn't see on opening day (he said, hanging his head in shame).

  We all enjoyed it a lot - and I was amazed that no one had spoiled the (numerous) surprises in the film. As someone said, it just shows how much everyone loves Star Wars - they want everyone to enjoy it!

   So my next challenge is to write a spoiler-free review for the blog - and my pal Mark Cannon emailed this to me as a Christmas present (thanks, pal!):

   "If you are a fan of the original Trilogy, you should love it. 

   The makers have realised the benefits of decent pacing, reasonable dialogue, good actors and minimising the use of CGI. 

   It’s not perfect, and you’ll probably hope that the next film veers a little more from the original template - but that will just make you all the more eager to see Part VIII.”

   Thanks, Mark! 

   I agree! The film introduces characters new and old, sets up a new storyline (without throwing away the old), mixes in the heart and humor and history of the series and lays the foundation for future movies. 

   Kudos to the cast, crew and creative team for breathing new life into this beloved series. It's a heck of a lot of fun and highly recommended!

Grade: A


New Comics Day

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

- Astro City #30 - A meeting of the minds.

- Daredevil #2 - A visit from some old "friends."

- Dark Knight III: The Master Race #2 - The person behind the mask!

- Justice League of America #6 - Hey, Bryan Hitch is back!

- Patsy Walker aka Hellcat #1 - I've always liked this character.

- Saga #32 - Getting the band back together again.

- Spirit #6 - The answer to the question: what happened to the Spirit?

- Superman #47 - Who is Hodor_Root?

   And that's it! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Jirni #5 (of 5)

   Any series manages a bit of a stumble from time to time, and for Jirni, this is that issue.

   The purple-skinned heroine has been the subject of two mini-series so far, following her adventures as she searches for her mother and the secrets behind her ability to change from an ordinary mortal into a powerhouse.

   It's been (mostly) sword-and-sorcery action, with the occasional side mission.

   This issue wraps up the latest such adventure, as Jirni seeks to rescue a small army of women who are being brainwashed by an evil mastermind.

   It's a by-the-numbers story with no real surprises along the way - and it doesn't really do anything to get the hero closer to her ultimate goal - but the art is very good and the tease for the next series promises more answers and adventures.

Grade: B



Monday, December 21, 2015

Weirdworld #1

   Following up on the mini-series that started as a Secret Wars spinoff (of sorts), Weirdworld returns with a new creative team and a new dynamic.

   It lives up to its name, but sadly it doesn't continue the storyline from the previous series - at least, not yet.

   The focus here shifts away from the star of the previous series, Arkon (I think that's him on page three, but I'm not sure - he isn't seen again in this issue).

   Instead we meet Becca Rodriguez, a young woman who finds herself in a world of madness after her flight to Mexico somehow crashes on Weirdworld.

   She faces all kinds of horrific monsters - and a possible female ally. And a certain familiar sorceress is also getting involved.

   The first series worked because of the quest basis for the story - and it focused on an interesting hero. I'm not sure this series can survive without those elements.

   The first issue needs to grab the reader and hook 'em good. This issue isn't bad - there are some good moments - but I'm not hooked at all.

    As the Magic 8-Ball might say: for this series, the future is cloudy.

Grade: B-


Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Uncanny Inhumans #3

   It's not a typical comic book, but The Uncanny Inhumans continues to offer up an intelligent storyline with compelling characters and terrific artwork.

   And what a pedigree! It features members of the Inhuman Royal Family - Black Bolt, Medusa and Triton - working with the Human Torch (Fantastic Four) and the Beast (X-Men), facing the apprentice of Kang the Conqueror!

   If you can find a book with a better Lee / Kirby lineage, buy it!

   Complicating the story written by Charles Soule is that the apprentice they're facing is the son of Black Bolt and Medusa - but through the time manipulations of Kang, he's no longer a child. Instead, he's a menace who threatens to end the Inhuman race forever!

   The issue looks amazing, with Steve McNiven and Jay Leisten crafting powerful character designs and stunning action sequences. The only flaw - and it's terribly minor - is that I'm not crazy about their redesign of the Torch.

   But that's a minor complaint about a smart, well-written series that I'm enjoying so much.

Grade: A


Saturday, December 19, 2015

All-New X-Men #2

   There's a lot to like about the new version of the All-New X-Men - great art, I really like the characters (the original, teenaged X-Men, minus Marvel Girl, plus the new Wolverine), I like the idea of the team roaming the country helping mutants, and - so far - I like the story.

   The story focuses on young Cyclops, whose grown-up self has become a hated pariah (though we're not exactly sure why - and we don't know what happened to older Cyclops).

   We meet a new team of mutants who talk about fighting for the legacy of "The Ghost of Cyclops," and that doesn't give them much credibility with the younger Scott Summers.

   The only problem with this issue is that it doesn't move the bar much from the last issue.

   That's typical for comics these days, so it's not unusual for the story to be stretched out a bit.    

   So far I like the new series, but the ending of this issue felt a lot like the ending of the first one.

Grade: B+


Friday, December 18, 2015

Justice League #46

   The problem with "event" books is that they sometimes spin out of control - and that curse seems to be falling on "The Darkseid War," and event-in-a-single-series (mostly) in the pages of Justice League.

   It started quickly with an Earth-shaking confrontation between Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor, their armies, and the JLA. That escalated to including new and powerful characters like Grail, some of the New Gods, and the transformation of several heroes into ever newer Gods.

   That change led to some spin-off titles, and now we're back with side battles, splinter missions, a mystery around the Anti-Monitor, and the return of... let's just say a well-known concept.

   But it's too much. There are so many characters, so many battles, so many characters running off on side-stories that it's just too much to keep up with (even for a long-time reader like me) - it's 10 pounds of stuff in a 5-pound bag.

   Of course, it could all be sorted out in the long run - Geoff Johns is a terrific writer and certainly capable of doing it - but he'd better start sorting soon or there any not be many left to see the final solution.

   The art is by Francis Manapul, a fantastic artist with a unique, kinetic style - but the jumbled story mixed with his style makes it difficult to follow events from panel to panel or page to page.

   This issue sets up Act 3 in the series, which is typically when things get resolved. Here's hoping!

Grade: B



Thursday, December 17, 2015

Squadron Supreme #1

   In a moment of cross-company fun, Marvel and DC had fun with each other's characters by creating familiar-looking super-teams based on their competitors.

   In an issue of Justice League in the '70s, the team faced heroes from an alternate reality - it was a thinly-disguised version of the Avengers.

   The same month at Marvel, they created a team called the Squadron Sinister to fight the Avengers - and it was obviously based on the JLA.

   Eventually, a heroic version of the team from yet another alternate reality, and the Squadron Supreme was born.

   That team was (presumably) lost when all the alternate Earths were destroyed in Secret Wars. But now it's back, and it's a complete mess.

   Rather than the team being survivors from a single Earth, each "hero" is from a different world. How did they survive the destruction of their worlds? No idea.

   It's a team of powerhouses - Hyperion (think Superman), Nighthawk (Batman), Doctor Spectrum (Green Lantern), the Blur (Flash) and Power Princess (Wonder Woman) - but they're also ruthless and brutal.

   So they go on a rampage that destroys a city and ends with the gruesome death of one of Marvel's longest-running heroes.

   How long will this death "hold?" I'm guessing about a year, but who knows?

   I get it, they're trying for a different tone - and they succeed there - but this isn't a team I have any interest in. Super-heroics in which the "heroes" kill and destroy at will?

   Nice art by Leonard Kirk and terrific cover by Alex Ross, but otherwise, not much to recommend here.

   Sounds like they should have stayed with the "Squadron Sinister" title.

Grade: C+



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Classics - Journey Into Mystery #85

   When Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber and Joe Sinnott created Thor in Journey Into Mystery #83 (published in 1962), they forgot one thing: a proper origin.

   In that first appearance, Thor was more superhero than mythological god. Dr. Don Blake discovers a stick hidden in a cave in Norway, and when he strikes a rock with it, he's transformed into a powerhouse with the power - and hammer - of Thor.

   But he still spoke and thought like Don Blake, so apparently he just had the powers of Thor - he wasn't actually the ancient god.

   Or was he?

   Two issues later, the creative team (with Dick Ayers replacing Sinnott as inker) took us to Asgard, where Thor's wicked brother Loki escapes his strange prison (he was inside a tree) and comes to Earth, where he confronts Thor - who recognizes him!

   They fight, as Loki uses his magic and wits to try to overcome his brother. At the end of the fight, Thor sends Loki back to Asgard to face justice - but how did he know where it was?

   In the months and years ahead, the "superhero" version of Thor would continue to fade, and when Lee and Kirby took the reins back from the writers and artists who worked on the character for about a year, the mythological version became the "real" Thor - and that's when the character really earned his spot at the top of Marvel's heroes (and he became one of my favorites).

   Thor's "true" origin wasn't revealed until 1968, in Thor #158 - but that's a review for another day.

Grade: B+