Sunday, July 31, 2016

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #1

   With a series like Green Lantern, it's easy to get lost in the magnitude of the concept.

   You're talking about a universe-spanning police force (the Green Lantern Corps) made up of thousands of aliens - and there are other, competing Corps made up of different colors.

   It's all happening on a cosmic scale - so it's easy to get lost in the, well, bigness of it all (if that's a word).

   The trick is to maintain a balance between the cosmic stories and the human ones - Hal Jordan has to be relatable for us to care about his adventures, right?

   Getting stuck in cosmic mode loses that side - and that's why I dropped this series a couple of years ago.

   For the Rebirth, I'm trying to give it another chance, and it's off to a decent start. Apparently the GL Corps and the Guardians were somehow banished from reality, leaving Hal to pick up the pieces - literally - with no support structure at all.

   He's managed to build his own ring - somehow - and is searching for the rest of the Corps.

   In the meantime, Sinestro is setting up his old power base, vowing to restore order to the galaxy - but his methods are as suspect as his motivation.

   So it's a big ol' story on a big ol' canvas, with great artwork and a solid story (though I'm a bit fuzzy on some of the details).

   I'd still like to see Hal back on Earth for at least a while, and give him a chance to show why he's a beloved hero. There's more to him that just a power ring.

Grade: B+


Saturday, July 30, 2016

All-New All-Different Avengers #12

   You just have to admire the craft and skill of the creative team on this title.

   Oh, this issue of the All-New All-Different Avengers doesn't include deep sociological insights or character analysis. Here the focus is on fun.

   At least as much fun as we can have when the Earth is facing destruction.

   The source of the problem in Annihilus, the ruler of the Negative Zone, who has found a way to reach across the gap between universes, using a device that will resonate for long-time Marvel fans.

   The issue is an action romp, as the heroes team up to take out a cosmic weapon and stop a rampaging (and nearly unstoppable) villain,

   It's an edge-of-your-seat adventure from start to finish and a heck of a lot of fun.

   Writer Mark Waid and artist Mahmud Asrar continue to knock it out of the park with this series.

   Terrific characters, an over-the-top story and a fight to the finish with one of Marvel's classic bad guys. If that doesn't work for you, I suggest trying a different hobby.

Grade: A


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Friday, July 29, 2016

Captain America: Steve Rogers #3

   Fandom in general was outraged by the latest story starring Captain America (Steve Rogers), which has him acting as an undercover agent working for Hydra - and no, it's not an imaginary story, a bad dream or a secret plan by Cap to infiltrate that criminal organization.

   Despite the outrage, this isn't the first time Cap has found himself on the wrong side of the fight. Back in his earliest appearances in Tales of Suspense in the '60s, we learned about an adventure in World War II wherein Cap was brainwashed by the Red Skull - and fought briefly for the Nazis.

   Of course, the key word there is "briefly" - the story spanned a single month, and then Cap was back to his Nazi-busting ways.

   Modern comics follow a much slower path, so we're three months into this turn - and no end in sight. (How long was Spider-Man "replaced" by Doctor Octopus - years?)

   You can count me among those who didn't care for this story angle - it seems like too much of a shock tactic - but I'll admit that this issue is crafted skillfully.

   Writer Nick Spencer is finally drawing back the curtain to reveal why Cap has turned - and how his efforts balance his heroic image and his duties serving the Skull.

   The art by Jesus Saiz is very good, with great character designs and strong layouts - but I'm still on the fence about the new costume design for Cap. It's growing on me.

   So I guess what this story comes down to is patience. You may need some to fight your way to the resolution of the story, but it promises to be an interesting trip, depending on your tolerance of Cap being on the wrong side of the equation - for now.

Grade: B+


Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Titans #1

   They never should have let them stop being "Teens."

   The group now known as The Titans started out as the Teen Titans, of course, and the Rebirth version of the team brings together the version of the team from the 1960s (mostly).

   But hey, they're all grown up now, though it's hard to tell, because they still act like kids - teasing Wally (Flash) West about being in love, teasing Aqualad (or is he Aquaman now?), and in general acting like kids.

   The series has a great mystery at its heart - which is also the key to Rebirth - who stole the memories and several years of time from the DC heroes?

   They make an effort to solve it - but instead spend their time looking for an old Teen Titans foe (with little luck) - and bring back an even older villain from a different series!

   If they're grownups, let them act like it (though certainly there's no harm in letting them have fun).

   But for a first issue, this comic never really went anywhere - it's all setup and no delivery. There's a huge mystery behind the book, by it looks like the solution is going to have to come from a different source.

   Is DC going to let this team be second-rate heroes again? Surely not.

Grade: B


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Civil War II #4 (of 7)

   I'm really struggling to keep an open mind about Civil War II, because I'm trying to keep my opinion from being colored by my negative reaction to the original mini-series.

   I've been hoping that this time around, the story would lean more toward the excellent film version - but I'm still on the fence here.

   That's because the story is a bit of a sludge, following the idea of an Inhuman named Ulysses who sees visions of the future - making it possible for heroes to act in time to stop major problems before they happen.

   It's an idea that Iron Man has been opposed to - and in this issue he explains why.

   It also focuses in on the problems the predictions cause - and on Captain Marvel's unwavering devotion to the predictions.

   The lesson of the film is that we have to be able to see both sides of the argument to secure the emotional punch of seeing two people who (deep down) like and respect each other being placed on opposite sides.

   The original mini-series simply gave us a hero (Captain America) and a villain (Iron Man). This series seems to be shaping up the same way, with Tony Stark being the hero this time, and Carol Danvers the villain.

   I hope I'm wrong and it comes together into a more coherent conflict (and eventual resolution). Right now it's looking a bit shaky.

Grade: B


New Comics Day

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

- Archie #10 - Political season!

- All New All Different Avengers #12 - Tag team against Annihilus!
- Captain America #3 - Fighting for the Red Skull?
- Civil War II #4 - Drawing the lines in the sand.
- Elfquest Final Quest #15 - At death's door!
- Flash #3 - So many speedsters.
- Future Quest #3 - Biiiiiiirdman! And the Herculoids!
- Hal Jordan and the GL Corps #1 - Back to basics!
- Totally Awesome Hulk #9 - Civil War comes calling!
- Mighty Thor #9 - vs. the Silver Samurai.
- Titans #1 - Rebuilding a lost life.
- Wonder Woman #3 - Need answers? Ask the Cheetah.

And I received review copies of:

- 4001AD #3
- Asassin's Creed #4
- Dark Souls #3
- Divinity #4
- Doctor Who 11th Year Two #11
- X-O Manowar #48

And that's it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Faith #1

   I would never have predicted that Faith would be one of the breakout hits for Valiant Comics - but here she is, back again in a new series.

    She doesn't look like the typical superheroine - she's no waif with legs down to there and breasts out to here, carefully posing to thrust her... assets... at the viewer.

   Instead, she's a bit overweight, and a nerd. She is a psiot (which apparently means she has telekinetic powers - she can fly and move things with her mind).

   Her superhero name is Zephyr, and she has moved to Los Angeles, where she has a double identity - by day, she works as a writer for an entertainment webzine, and in her spare time she fights the bad guys.

   Her adventures are firmly set in the real world (well, mostly), as she struggles with work duties and friends, and she finds herself getting caught up in the culture of celebrity in L.A.

   She's smart, optimistic, upbeat - and very likable! The script by Jody Houser is very good, and the art by Pere Perez, Marguerite Sauvage and Colleen Duran is fresh, bright and lots of fun.

   Heroes should be diverse - and Faith is certainly a step in the right direction!

Grade: B+



Monday, July 25, 2016

Batman #3

   Batman has picked up a couple of super-hero sidekicks along with his recent Rebirth.

   They go by the names Gotham and Gotham Girl (no, really!), and this issue gives us a look at Batman's investigations into their recently-acquired powers.

   The issue starts with a clever (if rather annoying) crime sequences, and then gives us some more tantalizing examples of this new team learning how to be proper super-heroes.

   We also get another glimpse of the upcoming big bad - who just happens to be one of my favorites.

   So, two things: the story is dragging its feet, building to an eventual confrontation (a common complaint, I know). This doesn't bother me much.

   The second - and here I haul out my old man credentials - is the causal use of a word that, until recently, would have been considered profanity. The word is "piss," and it appears five times in the first six pages. It's silly to complain - the word is common on television, I know - but it's just another example of allowing vulgar words to invade modern culture - and I still dream of comics that appeal to all ages, not just adults.

   I just find that sort of thing irritating. Sorry - end of rant.

   All that aside, this is a good series, with terrific artwork. But three issues in - four if we count "Rebirth" - and we haven't made much progress. Faster, please - and with cleaner language.


Grade: B+


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Green Arrow #3

   I don't buy everything out there, so I check in with friends to see what comics I should be picking up (assuming I'm not already).

   Green Arrow, they all told me. It's really good, they said. It's the biggest surprise, they added.

   "They"... were right!

   I tracked down the Rebirth issues, and apparently the focus is on bringing the series in line with the ongoing Arrow TV show - and that's not a bad idea at all.

   It's also good to see the supporting cast growing, and longtime fans will be happy to see the Black Canary back as a romantic (ish) figure in GA's life.

   On the action side, Oliver's in the fight of his life - he was nearly killed, he's been discredited, his company stolen, his money taken away, his friends are turning on him, there's an international conspiracy, powerful enemies targeting him  - what better for a hero than to have his back against the wall?

   It's a terrific script by Benjamin Percy and outstanding artwork by Juan Ferreyra, and a strong start to this "reborn" series.

    Thanks to everyone who pointed me at this series - heed their wisdom, readers!

Grade: A


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Groo: Fray of the Gods #1 (of 4)

   It's always a delight to see Groo back in print (after a brief hiatus), and Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier turn in the first chapter in a four-part mini-series.

   Surprisingly enough, the series tackles a subject that most comics wouldn't touch - religion! (The Fray of the Gods title gives it away.)

   Granted, this is the religion of Groo's timeless world, which means they're an odd mix of races, make-up and configurations. And we also get to see the birth of a god (no, it's not Groo).

   Our hero, of course, is aware of none of these higher functions - he's busy tackling his usual pursuits: eating, fighting against impossible odds, and being incredibly dim.

   But while Groo may be dim, his adventures are often very smart and subtle - and this one may well tread on a few toes before it's done.

   Bring it on!

Grade: A-



Friday, July 22, 2016

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1

   As a fan of the Birds of Prey, I'm glad to see the team making a comeback, this time with Batgirl headlining.

   Of course, most of Barbara Gordon's involvement with that team was in a supporting role as the computer wizard Oracle, back when she was partially paralyzed (she, uh, got better).

   This Rebirth issue brings back Black Canary (who's busy these days, as she also guest stars in Green Arrow) and introduces a new Huntress (well, she's new to me).

   This version of the character is different from the Earth-2 version - Helena Wayne, who crossed over with Power Girl and co-starred in the most recent version of World's Finest.

   The new one is very much a throwback to the original version of the character - a tough as nails vigilante.

   The question is: is this version a hero?

   The team is gathered by a new menace with a familiar name and a new mystery - just who is playing the part of Oracle now?

   So, lots of questions to be answered as the new series starts up. It's a promising (if somewhat dark) start for the new series.

Grade: B+


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Betty & Veronica #1

   As much as I've been enjoying the new Archie series, I haven't been following most of the other "new" comics based on the Riverdale cast (it's one of Chuck's Rule of Comics: "You Can't Buy Everything").

   I decided at the last second to pick up this first issue of Betty & Veronica, mostly because of the Adam Hughes cover (it's one of, apparently, 100 or so alternate covers).

   And here's where my lack of research into each week's new comics occasionally bites me - I had no idea who the creative team on the issue was.

   Imagine my surprise (and delight) when I realized that the interiors were also by Hughes!

   A terrific artist and a solid writer, we just don't get enough in the way of regular comics from Hughes. He (apparently) tends to work slowly, and that makes it difficult for him to do a monthly book, with its never-ending stream of deadlines.

   But here he is, one of the industry's best "Good Girl" artists, drawing two of its most famous beauties (although only one might fit the term "good girl").

   But don't expect an overload of cheesecake art (one page aside) - the focus here is on characters, settings and humor.

   The plot could be lifted from any other Archie comic - Pop's Ice Cream Shop is closing, unless Pops can come up with $60,000! What can the world's most famous teens do about that?

   I enjoyed this issue a lot - the art is terrific (natch), the humor is off the wall (wait'll you see who narrates the comic) and Hughes has a great grip on the personalities involved.

   I worry, though, that the series may have to be retitled - it's looking more like Betty vs. Veronica!

Grade: A-


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Justice League #1

   As the Justice League starts a new chapter with a new #1 issue and a (sorta kinda) new creative team, it's good to see that the team is (mostly) the classic configuration.

    (Well, it's the "classic" New 52 version, anyway.)

   So we get (the "new") Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg - the only one missing is Hal Jordan, whose spot is covered by the two newest Green Lanterns, Simon and Jessica.

   As you'd expect from writer Bryan Hitch, the menace they face is larger than life. It's also mysterious.

   We start with Wonder Woman fighting to stop a war - but things quickly escalate beyond that conflict, as the world is racked by a mysterious cataclysm.

   And that's when things get ever stranger.

   The art is by veteran Tony S. Daniel with inks by Sandu Florea and it's powerful stuff, with strong layouts and terrific character designs.

   The series is off to an excellent start, and as long as they stick to the current lineup (guest stars are encouraged, of course) and the current creative team, I think it'll continue to be one to watch.

Grade: A-



New Comics Day

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

- Astro City #37 - Rocking at the Dream House!

- Batgirl and the Birds of Prey Rebirth #1 - Putting the band back together.

- Batman #3 - Origin stories.

- Betty & Veronica #1 - Adam Hughes story and art? Sign me up!

- Black Widow #5 - Spy games!

- Green Arrow #3 - Arrow vs. arrow!

- Groo: Fray of the Gods #1 - Can Groo stop a god?

- Justice League #1 - The world is shaken.

- Star Wars #21 - When Stormtroopers strike!

- Superman #3 - What is the Eradicator?

- Usagi Yojimbo #156 - The mystery of the Hell Screen.

   And I received review copies of:

- A&A #5

- Divinity II #4 

- Faith #1 

- Rai #15 

- Assassins Creed #10 

- Norman #2 

   And that's it!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #9

   How I love stories that include mazes! (Granted, there aren't many such stories.)

   Ah, but the latest story arc in Wrath of the Eternal Warrior delivers!

    It features Gilad trapped in a hellish labyrinth - one where he dies over and over, only to be reborn (which has its own hellish aspect).

   But a hero as smart and capable as Gilad learns fast - and this issue, he finds a way to fight back in a most satisfying and brutal fashion.

   It's a heck of a lot of fun (in a brutal, violent way), and it includes a maze!

   I'm sold!

Grade: A-


Monday, July 18, 2016

Ninjak #17

   After a series of attacks that have destroyed Ninjak's "normal" life, he finally confronts that person behind his fall - but there are still plenty of shocks in store in this issue, which wraps up "The Siege of King's Castle" story arc.

   It's out of the ordinary because we rarely seen Ninjak when he's not in control of the situation, and here he's in for the fight of his life against a foe who seems to be unstoppable.

   As always, it's a sharp (and somewhat abrupt and action-heavy) script by Matt Kindt, with strong (if violent and bloody) artwork by Diego Bernard with Allison Rodriguez.

   Grade: B


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Aspen Universe: Revelations #1 (of 5)

   There are two types of comic book companies: the ones where virtually all their titles take place in the same universe (Marvel and DC), and the ones whose titles rarely if ever connect (almost everyone else).

   It's been an obstacle for Aspen's line of comics - but this mini-series, Aspen Universe: Revelations, promises to bring together the worlds of Aspen Matthews and the cast of the Soulfire series.

   That's a bit of a trick, because Aspen's world is set in the world of ecology and science fiction - while Soulfire is all about magic.

   So to give us a new beginning, the series takes us to the end.

   Of the world.

   As the planet (at some future date) is in its death throes, a groups of heroes plans a way to avert disaster - one that will send the young magician Malikai on  journey that will test his powers - and courage.

   The issue has a strong story and excellent, powerful art. It's only failing is that it has the "origin" curse - in other words, it has to explain what's going on to help guide new readers through these disparate worlds.

   I hope this story works - crossovers between the series (and their characters) should be a good jolt to set up new and more exciting stories.


Grade: B+


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ragnarok #9

   Writer / artist Walt Simonson had a historic run on Marvel's Thor, and the series Ragnarok (which seems to be flying under the radar for many) brings the two back together again - sort of.

   This version of that Norse god is not based on Marvel's Lee / Kirby creation - instead, it's based on the original myths (more or less).

   But this is Thor after Ragnarok (the final battle that destroys - well, everything), which he and the universe have survived - barely.

   Each issue has focused on massive battles, focusing on different aspects of the Norse myths, as Thor fights old enemies to survive - and to honor his fallen friends and family.

   This issue is a bit out of the ordinary, as (one brief bit of violence aside), it focuses on an unusual power Thor possesses - one that enables him to correct a recent wrong and craft an unusual ally.

   I love this series - though I should add that it's almost nothing like Simonson's acclaimed Thor run. Here's he's moving in different directions, but each page crackles with power and humor and the heft of myth.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A


Friday, July 15, 2016

Nightwing: Rebirth #1

   It's generally a bad idea for heroes to change names - it's a sign that something isn't working (in other words, weak sales).

   One of the exceptions to that rule was Dick Grayson, the original Robin who outgrew the role of being a sidekick and a "Boy Wonder."

   As the leader of the Teen Titans, he became Nightwing, and it was a real improvement - it gave him a chance to shine on his own, build a new life and it paved the way for future Robins to take their turn.

   For whatever reason, the decision was made to expose his secret identity in recent years, forcing him to drop his hero identity and become a secret agent.

   This issue of Rebirth has an obvious task at hand - clean up the continuity clutter and get Dick Grayson back in action as Nightwing.

   As the cover makes clear, this story does exactly that, walking us through as he touches base with all his past identities and explaining which one he's going back to.

   It doesn't really shed much light on those past associations - those of us who haven't read all those stories just get a general idea of what happened before - but it does a great job setting up the new series, and I suspect it'll make longtime Nightwing fans very happy indeed.

   Strong art, a solid story - and the return of a great hero. Sounds good to me!

Grade: A-


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps: Rebirth #1

   I've been a fan of Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) since the early '60s, when I discovered the terrific John Broome and Gil Kane stories being published by DC Comics.

   I stuck with the series for decades, but finally dropped it a few years ago when it just got to be too much - too many multi-colored Corps, too few Guardians, too many times Hal Jordan was de-powered and had to find a way to work around that handicap.

   So with some trepidation I picked up this Rebirth issue - hoping it treated Hal as well as the original "Rebirth" series (about 10 years ago) that brought the character back into the DC Universe as a Green Lantern (after a side trip as a mass murderer and the Spectre - don't ask).

   The issue is a bit of a puzzle - Hal has apparently been transformed into green energy, the rest of the Green Lantern Corps is "gone" - and he's trying to return to the world of the living. (There's not much in the way of explanation for those of us who have missed the recent story arcs.)

   We also catch up to an aged Sinestro, who is in control of the planet-sized Warworld, which is taking its place at the center of power in the universe.

   The issue features a strong story by Robert Venditti and powerful artwork by GL veteran Ethan Van Sciver.

   So there's a lot of potential for future stories and (hopefully) a return for Hal to his position as one of DC's greatest heroes - and maybe (stay calm now, gentle reader) a return to my pull list!

   Time will tell.

Grade: B+


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Civil War II #3

   It has become a requirement for Big Event Books (like Civil War II) to include one element: the death of a major character.

   And for the really big events, you need more deaths, more often.

   Which brings us to this issue, and yep - a shocking, surprising, game-changing, no fooling death of a major character.

   Of course, by now fans are inured to such things - we know that eventually the one(s) who died will return (say it with me: if Bucky can return to life, anyone can).

   None of which is to say that this isn't a good issue. The art is terrific and the story is genuinely compelling, as it unfolds an incredibly tense, life-or-death situation from several different viewpoints before, during and after the "event."

   It all centers around the Inhuman Ulysses and his ability to predict the future. His latest vision is of the Hulk killing - well, everyone - so a gathering of heroes goes to confront the problem head-on.

   What could go wrong, right?

   I have to admit that I'm still not sure about this series - though I readily admit that may be because I didn't like the original Civil War mini-series. At all. (I loved the movie!)

   But this series has taken some interesting turns, and the final page teases some new twists that may provide new surprises. We'll see.

   Oh, and that character who was killed? By the end of the issue at least: still dead.

Grade: A-


New Comics Day

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

- Civil War II #3 - Which Marvel hero will die?

- Daredevil #9 - Running a heist with Spider-Man!

- Flash #2 - The new speedsters in town.

- Gold Key Alliance #4 - A clash of heroes!

- Green Lantern: Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Rebirth #1 - Getting back to basics.

- Guardians of the Galaxy #10 - Cue the Cavalry!

- Nightwing Rebirth #1 - Also back to basics!

- Ragnarok #9 - Raising the dead.

- Wonder Woman #2 - Even more basics!

- All New X-Men #11 - The secret history of Apocalypse.

And I received review copies of:

- Aspen Universe Revelations #1 

- Bloodshot Reborn #15

- Doctor Who 10th Year Two #12

- Doctor Who 12th Year Two #7

- Doctor Who 4th #4

- Legends of Oz Tik Tok and Kalidah #3

- Ninjak #17

- Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #9 

And that's it!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Classics - Amazing Spider-Man #50

      One of the most iconic covers from the entire run of The Amazing Spider-Man has to be this one by John Romita (Sr).

   Peter Parker certainly wasn't the first Marvel hero to quit his super-hero gig - both the Human Torch and the Thing had taken turns "leaving" the Fantastic Four, and all the original Avengers left that title a little over a year into the run (the Hulk left at the end of the second issue) - but as the sole hero in the title, it was shocking to have Spider-Man hanging up his tights.

   (Who was going to take over - Aunt May? Harry Osborn? JJJ?)

   The issue, written by Stan Lee, surprisingly enough doesn't include a full-fledged villain. It starts with an action sequence, as Spidey tackles some generic robbers, but the rest of the issue is given over to activities more typical to a soap opera (which was the genius of the series, of course, as it balanced real-world concerns with super-hero antics).

   Parker was going through a particularly rough patch (and for him, that's saying something). The public didn't trust him, thanks to the unending efforts of J. Jonah Jameson, the publisher of the Daily Bugle newspaper. He was having money problems, and his grades in college were slipping because of his super-heroics. Even worse, his Aunt May was sick - and he had no time to have any romance in his life (and with the beautiful Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy flirting with him, he was ready for some romance)!

   He realized that all those pressures were caused by his Spider-Man identity - so for his own sanity, he decided to hang it up - and he tossed his costume in the trash (visualized by yet another classic Romita image).

   For a while, Parker's life was great - his problems had evaporated.  

   We hate spoilers here, of course, but it will come as no surprise that Spidey's retirement didn't stick - but the sequence that makes him realize the need for Spider-Man (and why he can't just ignore his gifts) is powerful, and his return is truly joyful.

   Lee and Ditko were the most influential creators to work on this title, but Lee and Romita also left their mark on the series - and it was under their creative reign that the title became Marvel's best-seller, and led the resurgence that made Marvel the top comics company for decades.

   Not too shabby!

Grade: A+


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Monday, July 11, 2016

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen #1 (of 5)

   Titan Comics has started a fun tradition with its line of comics devoted to Doctor Who: every summer they offer a special mini-series that teams up different Doctors in one big adventure!

   For 2016 we have the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th Doctors teaming up (well, eventually - they haven't met up yet by the end of this issue) to deal with the menace of the Cybermen!

   The Cybermen are a robotic race that assimilates humans and turns them into easily-controlled cyborgs (and yes, they were doing that long before the Borg first appeared).

   As Doctor Who villains go, they're second only the the Daleks (though many fans may give you an argument on that score).

   So what's their evil plan this time around? No idea.

   But apparently there's something wrong with time, as each version of the Doctor discovers as they each pursue different adventures (which usually involves lots of running, natch) with different companions (including some new faces and some old favorites).

   The story by George Mann and Cavan Scott is fun, though it's all about the setup at this point - but they mix lots of characters and settings across time and space as they lay the groundwork.

   The art is by Alessandro Vitti, Ivan Rodriguez and Tazio Bettin, and it's very good, with lots of energy and animation - though to be fair, the likenesses are a bit shaky in a few panels.

   But that's a minor quibble. This is a fun story that should help hold over fans until the new adventures of #12 start up again.

Grade: A-



Sunday, July 10, 2016

Superman #2

   Two issues into the series (not counting the Rebirth issue) and, I have to admit, I'm still not sure what to think about the "new" Superman.

   I think I like it.

   But I'm hesitant, perhaps because it's such a drastic change. Outside of Kid Flash (Wally West), no character (that I've seen) has been changed more than Clark Kent.

   That's because this is a different version of both Superman and Clark. This version is married to Lois Lane, they have a son, Jon, who's (I'm guessing) about 10 years old and just starting to develop his own powers.

   They live on a farm near Metropolis, and they go by the name "Smith."

   So that all takes some getting used to.

   This issue is a father-and-son outing, as Superman brings Jon along on what seems to be a standard rescue of a stranded submarine - but quickly takes a darker and more dangerous turn.

   The series is well-written by Peter J. Tomasi and I like the fresh, energetic art by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray, and it's going to be interesting to see how they build this new life and new story for a new Man of Steel.

   But it may take a few more issues before I'm sure.

Grade: A-


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Batman #2

   The comic may be titled Batman, but it's thematically closer to the old World's Finest series.

   It's become a team-up story, as Batman works with new heroes Gotham and Gotham Girl, both of whom seem to have the same powers as Superman.

   So the Dark Knight is at the low end of the power scale - but he's more experienced, so he agrees to work with the new duo to bring them up to speed.

   They get a great challenge right off the bat, as Solomon Grundy runs on a rampage - and he promises to be just the start of a big problem, as the last page teases the return of a classic villain.

   Writer Tom King's story is solid, with an interesting focus on Commissioner Gordon - but it's taking its time getting going.

   The art by David Finch, Matt Banning and Danny Miki is powerful, with strong character designs and layouts.

   It's a promising start to the series, but both Bat-series (this and Detective Comics) have apparently become team books - shouldn't one be dedicated to Batman's solo adventures?

Grade: B+


Friday, July 8, 2016

Invincible Iron Man #11

   Some stories end, others just... stop.

   Like this issue of Invincible Iron Man, which wraps up an unusual espionage story that has Tony Stark in disguise trying to infiltrate a new tech organization that threatens the world.

   It's led by a woman who calls herself the Techno Golem, and she has the ability to control any mechanical device with her mind - which makes her especially difficult for Iron Man to defeat.

    But instead of following through with the spy story, suddenly the issue is invaded by the All-New All-Different Avengers, acting as the calvary.

   It feels like they just wanted to get this story over with, because the team is led by several tech-based heroes (War Machine, the Vision, Nova) but the conclusion is quick and stunning.

   The credit for that has to go to artist Mike Deodato (with color art by Frank Martin), who manages super-hero spectacle and supermodel posing with equal skill. His work here (as always) is stunning.

   But you can't help but feel that writer Brian Michael Bendis had to rush the wrap-up on this a bit in order to make the jump to Civil War II - and to start laying the groundwork for the new "Iron Man," already spoiled by news stories this week.

   But it's worth buying the issue just for that double-page "Avengers Attack" splash.

Grade: A-



Thursday, July 7, 2016

Future Quest #2

   I think it's awfully kind of DC to create this comic just for me.

   (And all the other fans of the 1960s Hanna-Barbera action / adventure cartoons.)

   Future Quest is managing the difficult task of linking together such disparate heroes as Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, the Herculoids and - well, that would be telling.

   The story features a battle on an alien world with a cosmic monster - and now that creature threatens to invade the Earth, with the help of a certain villain.

   The story by Jeff Parker rockets along at top speed, mixing action and humor and nostalgia into an irresistibly entertaining package.

   The art is divided by three different artists - Evan "Doc" Shaner, Ron Randall and Jonathan Case. None of them are working in an animation style, but the art is fresh and action-packed, their styles mesh well and the issue has a terrific energy at work.

   If you're a fan of these characters, you should be reading this series - it's a lot of fun and highly recommended!

Grade: A


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Justice League Rebirth #1

   I'm so confused.

   Superstar artist and writer Bryan Hitch has been working on the comic Justice League of America, an "outside continuity" series that featured the classic "New 52" team (which means you get Cyborg instead of J'onn J'onzz, and Green Lantern is in there, too). It was very good.

   But the opening storyline hasn't wrapped up yet.

   Despite that, here's Bryan Hitch writing and drawing (with inkers Daniel Henriques and Scott Hanna) Justice League Rebirth, which is not connected to the other series (aside from a quick mention).  Apparently he's the new writer (and possibly artist) on the ongoing, post-Rebirth series.

   This issue is a fun, Cinemascope-sized "done in one" comic that serves as a solid primer to the series. It introduces the cast, substituting two Green Lanterns in place of the (presumably off world) Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan.

   It also introduces the new and different Superman to the team, although it takes its sweet time getting around to it (apparently his discussion with Lois was more important that rescuing millions of residents endangered by a city-sized monster).

   So while this certainly offers a promising start to the new series, I'd like to see a resolution to the series still dangling out there, waiting for a conclusion.

   Hopefully Hitch can manage both!

Grade: A



New Comics Day

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

- Batman #2 - The new heroes in town.

- Future Quest #2 - Gathering the H-B team supreme!

- Totally Awesome Hulk #8 - A meeting of the Hulks (sorta).

- Invincible Iron Man #11 - A show of force.

- Justice League Rebirth #1 - Now that's an alien invasion!

- Paper Girls #7 - Back to the future (in a completely different way).

- Punisher #3 - Saving an innocent life.

- Silver Surfer #5 - Starting a new life.

- Superman #2 - It's Super-kid!

- Superman: Coming of the Supermen #6 - The ever-loving' end!

   And I received review copies of:

- 4001AD Shadowman #1 - Danger from the Shadow Dimension!

- Bloodshot Reborn #1 - I didn't even know he was sick!

- Doctor Who Supremacy of the Cybermen #1 - A summer special event!
- Kim and Kim #1 - Fighting rock stars!

   And that's it!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Will Eisner's The Spirit #12

   One of the comics that seems to be flying under the radar has been this return to the classic hero created by the legendary Will Eisner - The Spirit.

   Eisner left a difficult mark to live up to - he was the gold standard for comics, and his work on The Spirit looms large in the history of comics.

   The best compliment I can pay to this 12-issue series by writer Matt Wagner and artist Dan Schkade is that it feels like a continuation of Eisner's work.

   The character designs are spot on, the art is wonderfully expressive, it's revived (in a modern way) many of the classic characters, weaves a compelling story that holds you to the very end, and it actually creates a new villain for the hero to face - one worthy of his incredible rogue's gallery!

   In this case, it's former Nazi Mikado Vaas, a kingpin of crime whose name strikes fear in even the most deadly criminals. The Spirit first escaped and then captured his deadly daughter Sachet - and this issue features the showdown between Mikado and the Spirit.

   It's a raw knuckles fight against an army of henchmen - and a heck of a lot of fun.

   Don't get me wrong, this story isn't the same as a traditional Spirit tale, which was usually more of a concise O. Henry-style tale. This is more modern, more action and humor and relationships - but I have to think Will would have enjoyed it.

   As will you.

Grade: A



Monday, July 4, 2016

X-O Manowar #47

   The main conflict in X-O Manowar has - up until this issue - been between the alien race known as The Vine and Aric, the visigoth wearing the X-O armor known as Shanhara (that, to be fair, once belonged to the Vine).

   But as it turns out, the goodness represented by Shanhara has an opposite number - a godlike race known as The Torment.

   Those powerful creatures destroyed the home world of the Vine - and now they've followed that race to the Earth.

   Which brings us to this issue, which brings many of the Earth's powerful forces against The Torment - in an issue-long battle for survival, as each side starts learning about the other.

   It's an over-the-top, no-holds-barred epic by writer Robert Venditti and artists Joe Bennett and Marcio Loerzer, and it's very good - it's a clever exploration of an invasion by an unbeatable enemy.

   The question is, how are the heroes of Earth going to win the day?

   Beats me! Of course, that's the fun part.

Grade: A-


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Jade Street Protection Services #1

   Young people going to school is a long-running comic book tradition (just ask Archie), and a school for students with powers is also a classic comic book concept (just ask the X-Men).

   But this new title, Jade Street Protection Services, has its own twist on the idea, as it focuses on a school filled with modern teenage girls who have sorcery-based powers (but there's no Harry Potter vibe here).

   Their training seems very militaristic, as they learn to conjure themselves into a battle-ready form - but they still suffer from the same insecurities, jealousies and struggles that face any teen.

   The focus is on a class of five girls and their less-than-friendly instructor, who seems to have a mysterious agenda that casts a dark light on the purpose behind the school.

   It's an interesting, fresh take on the academy concept from writer Katy Rex and artist Fabian Lelay - it's perhaps a little rough around the edges (and lots of questions to be answered), but Jade Street offers lots of promise.

Grade: B+


Saturday, July 2, 2016

All-New All-Different Avengers #11

   Time for a prison break!

   The All-New All-Different Avengers find themselves in an ironic situation - trapped in the Negative Zone, prisoners of Annihilus.

   (This is ironic because, during the original Civil War series, Tony Stark built a prison for super-powered prisoners - including heroes - in the Negative Zone.)

   But this story doesn't have anything to do with Civil War II - it centers around an attempt to rescue Nova's father, who is... (wait for it)... lost in space!

   But first they'll have to rescue themselves - no small task. And can I just say how much I enjoyed the MacGuffin that allows Annihilus to cross the gulf between our universe and the Negative Zone?

   Eleven issues in and this series continues to excel. And oh, that cliffhanger!

Grade: A


Friday, July 1, 2016

The Hillbilly #1

   Having mountain roots of my own, I couldn't resist a comic titled The Hillbilly - but I wasn't sure what to expect.

   Eric Powell is best known for The Goon, a comic / horror series that never really clicked for me (though I have many friends who love it).

   For various reasons, this series works. If you like Hellboy (as I do), then this should be on target for you.

   The comic is set in an undefined, extremely rural hill country - one loaded with superstition, witches and assorted monstrous creatures.

   When a boy named James sneaks off to go fishing, he faces death at the hand of a witch, but is rescued by a blind man who carries a unique and deadly weapon.

   On the walk home, the two share stories about local legends. It's a great mix of horror, adventure and odd characters.

   The art is wonderful, expressive and tells the story with muted colors.

   This isn't for everyone, but it manages to nicely walk the line between humor and the supernatural - and does it without being insulting to actual hillbillies. (Well, the really sensitive ones might flinch a little.)


Grade: A-