Ho-Hum, Back to Sleep

BoredBatman

I ain’t written anything for the blog in days. Just haven’t had a lot of energy for it. Sorry ’bout that.

I didn’t get many comics last week — just the three that I reviewed on Friday. I didn’t have any other comics or graphic novels sitting around that I felt like reviewing either. There’s plenty of stuff irritating me about comics lately, but they’re not irritating me to the level where I feel like I want to spend an evening writing anything coherent about them.

I’ve had trouble feeling really motivated to work on this blog lately. Reviews, reviews, reviews — what’s there to get interested in, right? And my insights into the comics world are probably not very worthwhile either. And working on the blog three times a week just takes away an evening when I could be working on my Great American Novels.

So why keep writing at all? Well, it’s sometimes a lot of fun to write about comics — even when you’re reviewing bad or mediocre books. And I really like the idea of having an online space where, if I really need to, I can rant about anything I feel I need to.

Plus I’ve actually heard from people who said they liked reading the blog. Most of the time, I feel like it’d be so easy to quit — but when you’ve got a couple of fans, it makes you feel like you’d be depriving them of your glory.

I suppose I shall just have to soldier on — but not today. Probably a bit later this week…

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Drum Monkey

AstroCity24

Astro City #24

We met Sticks last issue. He’s an intelligent gorilla from a secret city of fightin’ gorillas, but all Sticks wants to do is hang around Astro City and play drums. But supervillains keep trying to turn him into their lackey, and in an attempt to get away from that, he decides to join a superteam called Reflex-6. He’s an effective crimefighter — but superheroing just isn’t in his blood, so he quits to go back to full-time drumming. But then he and his bandmates are attacked by more supervillains — and he can’t bring himself to let them be harmed, too. Is there a solution to his problem?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s not a perfect issue — we get way too many side-characters, many of whom are of minimal importance, and I don’t entirely buy the superhero band — and Sticks’ later alter-ego as Tuxedo Gorilla is really just way too silly. But aside from that, the character work is excellent, the art is wonderful, and while I’m not a big fan of Reflex-6 or Powerchord, I really want to see more stories where superheroes fight monster supervillains like the Screampunks and an evil snow globe called… Snowglobe.

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Daredevil #16

Everyone thinks Matt is a bad guy — and even worse, they think all of his associates are crooks, too, thanks to the machinations of the Shroud. So he has to go make a deal with the one person he really, really doesn’t want to make a deal with — Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. Why should the Kingpin help the Daredevil? Matt is offering him the death of Matt Murdock — he’s willing to let the Kingpin stage Murdock’s death, convincing everyone he knows that he’s truly and finally dead, to give him extensive plastic surgery so he’ll look nothing like he used to, to give him a new name — Daredevil will still be operating, but Matt Murdock will be no more. While Kingpin considers the offer, Matt gets a tip that Julia Carpenter, once the second Spider-Woman and the ex-girlfriend of the Shroud, is coming into San Francisco, so he heads for the airport to intercept her. But the Shroud and the Owl’s daughter get there first. And the Kingpin has another plot — and another minion — in reserve.

Verdict: Thumbs up. As always, fantastic art and writing — and cliffhanger after cliffhanger after cliffhanger. A particularly fine moment, by the way, is the moment when we finally get the see the chilling paintings in Fisk’s gallery — artwork which Matt is unable to see…

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Howard the Duck #4

Well, Howard managed to get the mysterious necklace for the mysterious Mr. Richards, only to find out that Mr. Richards was actually Talos the Untamed! A Skrull who can’t shapeshift but is still somehow a supervillain! But Howard still wants his money, honey, so he and Tara Tam pay a visit to Dr. Strange to see if he can magically track the necklace. It turns out the necklace contains a gem — not one of the Infinity Gems, but from a set that’s a good deal weaker. Still, if you assemble them all in one place, you could potentially destroy the world with them. So Howard, Strange, and Tara recruit Johnny Storm to help — but can they beat Talos to the prize?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Thoroughly excellent writing, art, and humor. Loved the bits with Strange’s contest against the demon Thog, the details of the (fingerless) Abundant Glove, and Johnny Storm’s utterly noxious pick-up lines.

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Stuck in the Lockup

Revival30

Revival #30

Things have gone nuts Wausau, Wisconsin. Edmund Holt, a wingnut terrorist wannabe, got the reviver wife of the town mayor to sew a bomb inside her and set it off during a press conference, killing several people, including the mayor. Now a military governor, General Louise Cale, has been assigned to the town. Meanwhile, Blaine Abel, nutbag exorcist wannabe, killed reporter May Tao because he thought she was allied with the Devil — Blaine has now joined up with a bunch of religious hipster survivalists called the Hunters of the Beast as they hide in the woods and plan various attacks. Most of the revivers are being held prisoner in a military facility. The Cypress family is trying to recover from the various traumas, while the government prepares a raid on the Hunters of the Beast.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice story, and a nice summary of the new status quo in Wausau. As always, things will get worse before they get better (if they ever get better — this is a “rural noir,” after all, and things don’t often improve in noir), and it’s very unlikely they’ll introduce the Hunters and then squash them in the next issue…

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All Star Section Eight #1

Many moons ago, in the storied pages of “Hitman,” Garth Ennis and John McCrea created Section Eight, a superteam of crazy people — Sixpack, the Defenestrator, Jean de Baton, Flemgem, Bueno Excellente, Friendly Fire, Shakes, and Dogwelder. But most of them died years ago, leaving Sixpack and Bueno Excellente as the lone survivors. Sixpack has built a career as a successful art critic, but when he finally falls off the wagon, he finds himself back in Noonan’s Bar, convinced there’s a new threat on the horizon and trying to put the old team back together. He recruits a new batch of no-hopers — Powertool, the Grapplah!, Guts, a new Dogwelder, and demonic bartender Baytor. But that’s just seven — who can he get for the eighth member? Well, hey, they’re in Gotham — why not see if Batman will join up?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is pretty glorious superhero parody. Sixpack and Section Eight are plenty fun, and I’m really glad that we’ll get to see more of Baytor, who is one of my favorite gag characters ever. McCrea’s Batman-through-the-Ages poses are outstanding, and Ennis’s skewering of the Dark Knight is great, too.

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Lazarus #17

The new war between the Families Carlyle and Hock isn’t going well for the Carlyles. It doesn’t help that Malcolm Carlyle has been poisoned, and his son Stephen is not entirely up to the job yet. So Forever is going to have to lead a small squad of soldiers into enemy territory to help take some of their territory back from Hock.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice combination of action and intrigue — for once, someone other than Forever getting into the action.

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Apocalypse How

MsMarvel16

Ms. Marvel #16

Kamala Khan is still heartbroken that her crush, Kamran, turned out to be a supervillain — she’s busy drowning her sorrows with pushcart hot dogs — when she learns that the world is about to end. She responds to reports of panic in NYC and discovers a whole ‘nother Earth about to crash into ours. She starts working on getting her friends and family to safety — and meets up with Kamran again, who informs her that the renegade Inhumans have abducted her brother Aamir. They’re going to expose him to the Terrigen Mists, too, to awaken his Inhuman powers and see if he’ll serve them. And on top of all that, Kamala finally gets to meet her idol…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Tons of great moments, great writing, great art. It actually feels like a crisis situation — everyone is pulling together and helping each other out. And hey, Adrian Alphona is doing the art, which means you need to start paying attention to all the little details to find the secret gags and in-jokes.

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Harley Quinn and Power Girl #1

So this entire miniseries takes place between a few panels in the regular Harley Quinn comic. Harley and Power Girl end up going through an interdimensional/time portal and then reappearing moments later with new costume changes. So what happened while they were in another dimension? Let’s find out!

Once Harley and PeeGee find themselves teleported to another galaxy, they run into a quasi-Yoda pervert who has his pet hydra attack them. Once they’ve got that settled, with a combination of superstrength and conveniently-placed high-caliber weaponry, they find an abandoned but oddly familiar robot head. Hey, it’s the giant head spaceship of Vartox of Valeron! But where is Vartox? He’s being held captive by the Darkseidesque supervillain Oreth Odeox, and when the big giant head takes our heroines to the now-conquered Valeron, they’re attacked by Odeox’s forces, but they meet up with a new ally — Groovicus Mellow, Chief Science Cat to Lord Vartox.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I never really thought I’d read a comic with the New 52’s uncool version of Harley — but when it also stars Power Girl, and it’s written by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Amanda Conner, the creators behind the very best version of Power Girl, well, I allow myself to be convinced. Conner doesn’t provide the art — that’s by Stephane Roux. The art isn’t as gloriously expressive as Conner’s, but it ain’t at all bad. All in all, it looks like this is going to be something I’ll keep reading.

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Sensation Comics #11

Just a single story in this issue. Josh Elder and Jamal Igle bring us the tale of Wonder Woman traveling to the nation of Itari, which has been locked in years of war. She hopes her status as an ambassador will help the intractible enemies in the small nation learn to embrace peace. But Ares definitely doesn’t want to let peace break out, so he raises an army of the lizard-like Praetorians. Can Diana defeat the God of War and help end the hostilities in Itari?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice story, along with some excellent art by Jamal Igle. I do wish we could’ve seen Etta Candy, though — she gets namedropped early on, but it seems like the kind of story where she would’ve been a lot of fun.

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Hail to the Chief

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Prez #1

I’ve decided to give some of the new DC books a shot — this one appealed to me a bit because the original ’70s Prez comic was so famously whackaloon. So how does the new re-imagining of the concept of the first teenaged president fare?

We check in with an America 20 years into the future run by the standard oligarchy of wealthy nogoodniks. It’s time for the presidential elections, and they’re working to figure out who the major parties will run in the campaigns. It’s not remotely fair or democratic, but at least the candidates are subjected to plenty of humiliations as they prostrate themselves before YouTube celebs for the sake of votes.

And while all this is going on, we meet up with Beth Ross, a low-level fast-food drone with an uninsured father who’s dying of a rare form of influenza. Her only claim to fame is an embarrassing video where she accidentally deep-fries her hair. Her attempts to raise money for her dad’s treatment through a stunt-injury game show and through a crowdfunding website called SickStarter go nowhere. There’s not a lot of hope for her — until Anonymous exploits the lack of interest in the new elections — all run through Twitter — to enter her as a candidate, based on the popularity of her video. But she doesn’t have a chance of winning, does she? Depends on what the diabolical Boss Smiley decides…

Verdict: Thumbs up. The level of political silliness is pretty top-notch — it’s fairly glorious to see presidential candidates so desperate for approval that they willingly let morons with YouTube channels spank them with ping-pong paddles. Unfortunately, Beth doesn’t get to do very much — and she’s not even elected to the presidency in this issue — but I expect the first storyarc will focus on getting her to embrace her new presidential powers. It looks pretty interesting, and I’ll probably keep picking it up.

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Lumberjanes #15

The mysterious Abigail continues to make friends with Jen, thanks to her spectacular library, while the rest of the Lumberjanes work to survive the unseasonal snowfall. Soon, Rosie finally tracks Jen to Abigail’s cabin — Rosie and Abigail both used to be Lumberjanes together, and they didn’t part on the best of terms. Will Rosie be able to get through to the less-than-stable Abigail? Will she and Jen finally manage to bond?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Definitely worth it for the great art and for the hints of the secret history of the Lumberjanes. The rest of the gang don’t get as much to do as normal — though there is a grand chase with a bunch of monsters in the woods — but it’s nice to give Jen a little focus, too.

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Starfire #1

I’d heard a few recommendations of this comic last week, and figured that, as much as I tend to enjoy Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s comics, I should give this one a chance. We jump into the story with Starfire newly moved to Key West, Florida and making friends with Sheriff Gomez. She meets the locals, trades some alien jewels for some ready cash, breaks up a bar fight, gets a civilian wardrobe and a trailer to live in, locks lips with a local hunk, doesn’t understand metaphors, and faces down a hurricane.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The art by Emanuela Lupacchino is extraordinarily charismatic, and Conner and Palmiotti give us a Starfire who’s a lot more like the versions on the “Teen Titans” cartoon and in the Wolfman-Perez version of the comic in the ’80s. She’s a lot less manchild-porn and a lot more humor driven now — her personality is certainly better defined. I don’t entirely buy the argument that she had to wear a skimpy costume to soak up solar energy — but ask me again when the similarly solar-powered Superman starts running around in short-shorts.

Today’s Cool Links:

Not in the mood for a lot of funny links today. Looks like we’ll be talking about terrorism a lot today.

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The Eyes Have It

SupernaturalEnhancements

The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

Seems like it’s been ages since we reviewed a novel, so here’s one I picked up a few months ago. Y’all know I love haunted house stories, and I’ve got a serious weakness for turn-of-the-century ghost stories — so this one easily drew me in, and then gave me some serious surprises, too.

This tale is told through a collection of documents — letters, video and audio transcripts, notebook conversations — as a young European referred to only as A. learns that a cousin he’s never heard of has died and left him a spooky mansion in Point Bless, Virginia. When he moves to America to take over the house, he brings his close friend Niamh, a mute punk girl from Ireland, and they both buy a collie named Help for a little more companionship in the mansion. And they start doing research about the weird history of eerie old Axton House.

The previous owner of the house — Ambrose Wells, A.’s mysterious cousin — committed suicide by throwing himself out a window — and at the very same age and from the very same window as his own father had committed suicide. Wells maintained secret, coded correspondence with a number of unknown people, and A. soon becomes obsessed with decoding the secrets of Wells’ secret society, and he begins having a number of vivid, bizarre, frightening dreams. At the same time, it becomes clear that Axton House is haunted, which is just one more thing messing with A.’s rapidly fraying sanity.

Is A. doomed to the same fate as his cousin? Will he and Niamh ever discover the secrets of Axton House? And what horrors await them when the Society joins together at the Winter Solstice?

Verdict: Thumbs up. An extremely enjoyable book with plenty of surprises, twists, and turns. Yes, it starts out looking like an old-school ghost story, then turns into a mystery before finally morphing into an occult action-adventure thriller. I thought it was just amazingly readable — the chapters were generally pretty short, which helped drag you deeper into the story, and it was hard to quit reading when you knew every few pages could reveal some new mystery or unveil something you never expected.

There’s a lot to be said for how great the characters are in this — A. makes an excellent protagonist, and the all-too-brief visits with Ambrose Wells’ butler and with the Society members are wonderful. Even Help, the dog, is a joy in every scene he’s in.

But the best character, the one that guarantees that this book gets my recommendation, is Niamh. She has more pure personality than everyone else in the novel put together. Her inability to speak doesn’t keep us from learning more about her, thanks to her ever-present notebooks, as well as A.’s descriptions of her. She’s got twice A.’s brains, ten times his charm, and 100 times his courage. She’s a hilarious badass wrapped up in a perky punk package, and she’s pretty much my favorite fictional character ever.

If you love supernatural mysteries, thrills, and adventure — along with a number of excellent characters — you’ll definitely want to pick this one up.

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Closed for the Apocalypse

CaptainAmerica-MightyAvengers9

Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #9

Well, foo. It looks like the final issue of this series.

The Mighty Avengers have lost the legal right to call themselves “Avengers” — that’s the problem with having a half-dozen superteams that all call themselves some variation of the Avengers, right? They’re still kicking around new names — Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’ daughter Danielle is partial to “Friend Force” — when they learn that the worst-case scenario has come to pass. Earth has one hour to live unless they can either find a way to work with the Ultimate Marvel universe to find a solution or destroy them — and it looks like destroying them may be the better option, since the Ultimate universe is attacking them with helicarriers.

Monica Rambeau makes a really good effort to blow the Ultimate Earth apart by hitting them as an energy particle traveling at the speed of light — but she loses her nerve because she can’t bring herself to destroy billions of lives. The rest of the issue focuses on superheroes trying to win the battle, trying to win their own personal battles, or just making peace with those around them — and we also meet plenty of normal people who are going through the same struggles. Is there anything that can save the Earth?

Verdict: Thumbs up. There’s a little cosmic superheroism and a lot of street-level superheroism and a decent amount of normal people getting by, which always seemed like something this comic did pretty well. I’m disappointed the series is being cancelled — there are a lot of good characters in here who are a lot of fun to read, and I hope they all land in some new comics after Secret Wars wraps up.

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Harrow County #2

Emmy has stolen away a haint’s skin — looks just like a skinned boy, and it can move around a little and talk a bit, and it’s thoroughly creepy. She hides him in her dresser drawer and discovers that all the scratches she’d gotten in the brambles have already healed up. But the townspeople are suspicious, and the haint’s skin is able to tell what the rest of it can hear. It eavesdrops on the people at the burned-out oak, and Emmy learns that they’re going to kill her because they think she’s the reincarnation of a murderous witch. Can Emmy escape, even with help from a friend?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Gloriously spooky and eerie. Wonderful characterization. Fantastic art, too. If you love horror comics — and classic rural horror stories — this comic is something you’ll want to read.

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Nameless #4

The man called only Nameless is undergoing a host of nightmares — falling down an endless chasm, being chased my living, madness-inducing froth in an immense meteor, being dismembered by space monsters, living through an alien invasion that drives everyone murderously insane. But they’re just nightmares, right? Is one of them real? Are all of them real?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Mind-cracking horror with mercilessly detailed artwork. Man, I love Grant Morrison writing superhero stories, but this reads like he’s enjoying it more than he’s enjoyed anything in a long time.

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Gwenderful

Spider-Gwen5

Spider-Gwen #5

The Mary Janes are going to be opening for Felicia Hardy and the Black Cats — not really something they’re looking forward to, because Felicia Hardy is a better musician and a colossal pain in the butt. And as it turns out, she’s also a cat burglar with a major mad-on for Matt Murdock, who killed her father. And sure enough, Murdock shows up at the show, and a fight breaks out. Can Spider-Woman reign in the chaos?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent, fun story and art, with great detail on Felicia’s past and on Murdock’s secret villainy. The major disadvantage of this is that it’s actually the final issue of the series — it’s being cancelled by the Secret Wars crossover, and since Gwen’s going to end up in the main Marvel Universe, we’re probably not going to find out any more about Gwen’s universe. That’s too bad, because we’ve just barely scratched the surface of this world’s background.

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Silver Surfer #12

On the paradise planet of New Newhaven, everyone’s perfectly happy, Norrid Radd hasn’t felt the need to “silver up” in months, Dawn Greenwood is happier with Norrin than she’d been before he used to be the herald of Galactus, and even the Surfer’s board is enjoying exploring with the help of a creature called Euphoria. But something is wrong, and Norrin and Dawn have to figure out what’s up — and what their personal futures hold.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Dan Slott, Michael Allred, and Laura Allred bring us another great story. It’s great to see Norrin and Dawn in a more relaxed setting. It’s looking like this is getting close to the end of this series, too — and I hope it’ll be back after Secret Wars, because the series is just so much fun.

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Putting the Funny in Funny Books

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Giant-Size Little Marvel: AvX #1

Skottie Young glorious cartooning gets to move off the alternate covers and into a full comic of its own. Believe it or not, this is part of the Secret Wars crossover, though it seems to have very little connection to anything with Battleworld. It’s basically a whole comic book full of the Avengers and the X-Men looking for excuses to get into hilarious fights.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Marvel’s characters as particularly funny cartoon babies is something I will never, ever get tired of. I’d love it if they made this a regular series.

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6

In this issue, we meet a new supervillain — Hippo the Hippo, who is a bipedal talking hippo! He’s very angry and wants to rob a bank that Doreen and her roommate Nancy are guarding. But before Squirrel Girl can kick his ass, we meet new heroes — Chipmunk Hunk, who can talk to chipmunks, has chipmunk powers, and is awfully good looking, and Koi Boi, who can talk to goldfish and slowly grow to fit the size of his container. After Doreen convinces Hippo to turn from a life of crime, she decides maybe Nancy has the power to talk to animals, too, so they head to the zoo so Nancy can talk to every animal there. Of course, a crimefighting emergency presents itself, but before Doreen can get into her costume, the day is instead saved by a teensy squirrel superhero called Girl Squirrel! But is Girl Squirrel friend… or foe?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s very funny — and insane to a degree that you almost never find in comics today. The description I have above is seriously toned down, because if I mentioned all the crazy stuff that happened in this issue, it would’ve taken another three paragraphs to tell it all. Yes, this is absolutely a recommendation.

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Hurt

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The Wicked + the Divine #11

Shall I trust that you’ve all heard of Wham Episodes?

That’s what happens when you’re reading a story or watching a show, and there’s a plot twist so sudden and shocking that it marks a point where nothing will ever, ever be the same again.

Henry Blake’s death in M*A*S*H? Wham Episode. The destruction of Vulcan in the movie reboot of Star Trek? Wham Episode. “I did it thirty-five minutes ago” in Watchmen? Wham Episode.

In this issue, Baphomet tries to kill Inanna. He maybe succeeds, he maybe doesn’t. But that’s not the Wham Episode.

Everything that happens after that is the Wham Episode.

Verdict: Thumbs up. No, of course I’m not giving you spoilers. This is too good and too horrible. You’ll have to experience it for yourself.

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Rat God #5

Clark Elwood has been blackmailed into going along with Peck’s plan to kill his father and take over the cult in the tiny, backwards village of Lame Dog, but they’re effortlessly found out and captured. Peck’s father ties them in the dungeon to be eaten by the rat god. The monster devours Peck, but Kito’s brother Chuk helps Clark escape before being killed by the god, but Clark and Kito are still being pursued by the rat god and the mad cult leader? Will they manage to destroy their foes? And even if they can, will they be able to escape from Lame Dog?

Verdict: Thumbs up. An excellent end to the series — and as always, amazing, glorious artwork by the great Richard Corben.

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