Archive for July, 2008

Spooks and Freaks and Goblins and Ghouls


Dan Brereton’s Nocturnals: Carnival of Beasts

Monster-loving painter Dan Brereton returns to his best-known spook-pulp series. All the usual Nocturnals — lycanthropic mad scientist Doc Horror, ghost-collecting teen Halloween Girl, mute zombie gunfighter Gunwitch, peaceful ghost Polychrome, synthetic pyrobug Firelion, amphibious hottie Starfish, bioengineered gangster Raccoon, and reptile hybrid Komodo — make at least a cameo appearance here.

We have a trio of stories here — in the first, Doc, Evie, and the Gunwitch go searching for new stores of the chemical that keeps Doc from turning werewolf, but instead they run into a bunch of mad scientists who’ve been experimenting on themselves and on a bunch of runaways. Our second story focuses on Starfish as she visits a sea monster to get rid of a ghost. And in the last, Halloween Girl, Polychrome, and Gunwitch have fun at a spooky Halloween carnival.

Verdict: Thumbs up. All the stories are about monsters, but it would be inaccurate to call this horror. It’s definitely pulp fiction, with a strong strain of slightly corny Halloween-loving spookiness. These are stories for grownups, but they’ll best be appreciated by grownups who love old pulp horror. And if you’ve got mature kids who love monsters, let them give it a read-through, too, especially the story set in the carnival.

Anyway, Brereton wrote all three stories, and his storytelling is first-rate. He also illustrated the first tale, and his painted artwork is predictably lush and awesome. The second story, illustrated by Victor Kalvachev, is also beautiful and atmospheric, and the last story, illustrated by Ruben Martinez and Viet Nguyen, is more cartoony, but it’s creepy and funny in all the right ways. My only regret about this is that it wasn’t released closer to October — it really is perfect Halloween reading.

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Two-Face: Year One #1

We get a retelling of Harvey Dent/Two-Face’s origin story, with many elements taken from “The Long Halloween” by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. Most of the focus here is on Harvey — we don’t actually meet Two-Face until the last page.

Verdict: Thumbs up, but Two-Face is my favorite Batman villain, so I should be considered an easy mark.


Madame Xanadu #2

Camelot has fallen, and Nimue has done nothing to help them. She takes petty revenge on some of Mordred’s soldiers, but her scorn for her evil sister Morgana is mostly ignored. She also encounters Etrigan the Demon before meeting the Phantom Stranger, who tells her that her lover Merlin summoned the demon and plans to use her to flee and gain immortality so he can continue to influence history to his own benefit. Nimue must repay Merlin’s betrayal with betrayal of her own, but can she escape a terrible fate?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nicely chaotic bit of fun and intrigue. Matt Wagner knows his Arthurian legends, and his re-creation of Madame Xanadu’s origin remains very enjoyable.

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Funny Ha-Ha


Ambush Bug: Year None #1

The return of Ambush Bug! HUZZAH!

The world’s greatest comedic, fourth-wall-breaking, teleporting, deelybop-wearing superhero is investigating the murder of Jonni DC, Continuity Cop, accompanied by his ever-loyal buddy, Cheeks the Toy Wonder. We get appearances by Argh!Yle!!, the evil Dr. Doomesque sock, and a new hipster villain called Go-Go Chex, as well as cameos by Yankee Poodle, Egg Fu, Ace the Bathound, ‘Mazing Man, Jean Loring, the Source Wall, the Golden-Age Batgirl, Jack Kirby’s Sandman, and bunch of gratuitous Women in Refrigerators. The entire thing is almost entirely plotless — the only real purpose is to dump an obscene number of jokes on the readers.

Verdict: Thumbs up! This is complete and total brilliance. A six-issue series? Surely this could be padded to a dozen or two? Pretty please?


Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes #1

A new Marvel all-ages book! HUZZAH!

Looks like this will be a team-up book, and the first issue features Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the Hulk. Hercules shows up and asks the trio of heroes to dog-sit his pets for him for a few weeks. No problem, right? Oh, wait, they’re Cerberus and Orthus, giant multi-headed guard dogs of the Underworld. They decide to try to train the dogs, mainly to keep them from using Iron Man as a squeaky chew toy.

Verdict: Another thumbs up. This is another extremely funny book, what with Spider-Man sticking to the Hulk, Iron Man constantly being chewed on by giant dogs, the spectacle of Cerberus being entered into a dog show, and frankly, almost everything the Hulk says and does.


Hoverboy #1

A comic subtitled “The Republican Super-Hero!” Umm, huzzah?

This is set up as a revival of an old character from the Golden and Silver Age. Hoverboy is a guy with a bucket on his head who undertakes a mission to spy on Iran and start a little trouble over there. Unfortunately, George W. Bush is not the greatest mapmaker around, and Hoverboy ends up running around Iraq killing Iraqi police officers and generally starting needless trouble for American troops. Who’s going to get the blame for this? Hoverboy? President Georgie? Or some random stooge in the Bush cabinet? Once the main story is over, we’re treated to a bunch of “historical covers and reprints” from old “Hoverboy” comics.

Verdict: Ehh, bit of a mixed bag. The main story is okay, but not particularly any grand shakes. I actually graded them down a little for dropping this so close to the end of Bush’s term; publish it in 2003-2005, when everyone was in “All Must Love Bush” mode, and I’d give ’em marks for courage, but now, when he’s got approval ratings around 20%? That’s jumping onto the dogpile after the ref’s already blown the whistle. I’m not even sure the usual Limbaughian extremists will even bother issuing the standard denunciations and fatwas at this point…

Anyway, the cover gallery is actually funnier, what with the ad for the “Hoverboy Flying Belt” from the ’40s that tells kids that they’ll really be able to fly, a Hoverboy PSA that warns kids about the dangers of Canadians, and a reprint of a story that features Hoverboy killing every animal in a zoo while searching for a Japanese detainee. The cover gallery is mostly the work of Marcus Moore, who really does a great job of re-creating the look of various old comics.

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There is never a cool time to describe yourself as “giddy,” but folks, after I read this news earlier today, I was absolutely, unapologetically giddy. We’re talking dancing around, making high-pitched giggling noises, and trying to hug strangers.

The Milestone Universe is getting incorporated into the DC Universe.

Announced Saturday at Comic-Con International, the characters of Milestone Comics will be folded into the fabric of DCU proper, in some very high-profile titles.

Static – co-created by Dwayne McDuffie, the fan favorite writer of DC’s top-selling “Justice League of America” – will be joining “Teen Titans” as an active team member.

The supercharged hero is arguably the former DC imprint’s most recognizable character thanks in large part to the animated series, “Static Shock,” that ran for four seasons from 2000 to 2004.

Late Saturday night, McDuffie, one of Milestone’s co-founders, also confirmed for CBR News that two of his most popular creations will appear in his next arc of “Justice League of America,” beginning in #27.

“You will definitely see Icon and you’ll definitely see Hardware,” revealed McDuffie. “And the Justice League will be going up against Milestone’s Shadow Cabinet too.”

Milestone was a comics imprint that was published through DC, but it had no connections to the regular DCU. It was probably the most successful comics publisher to specialize in fully multicultural comics, and most important to me, on a personal level, Milestone’s comics (specifically, “Blood Syndicate”) were the ones that finally got me back on the comics bandwagon again, back when I was in grad school in Denton.

Getting Milestone characters incorporated into DC’s continuity isn’t the same as getting Milestone’s seriously awesome comics published again, but it’s nice to see this, as Milestone’s contributions were being forgotten too rapidly.

And as long as DC figures out a way to bring back the badass OG’s from “Blood Syndicate,” in all their “Are They Heroes or Are They Gangstas” glory, I’ll be really happy. Giddy, even.

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Goblin and Sketchin’


The Goblin Chronicles #3

The final issue of this miniseries is out, with colors again ably provided by Will Terrell, Chief Hierophant of the Lubbock Sketch Club. Gorim the goblin, Zara the troll, Sprig the shapeshifter, and Gween the elf finally encounter the oracle and ask him how to defeat the Dark Queen, but his answer is pretty nonspecific. The group is ambushed by a trio of swamp monsters and forced to surrender to the Dark Queen, but the Four Realms have put aside their differences and are marching to battle against the Queen’s forces. The Queen casts a spell to start all the various races fighting each other, but the quartet of young adventurers manages to escape from the dungeon and free some of the leaders of the Four Realms. The leaders persuade their followers to turn their attentions back on the Dark Queen. Desperate for some way to stop the heroes, the Queen begins to summon the Host, a horde of demonic imps who can destroy everyone who opposes the Queen. Can Gorim, Zara, Sprig, and Gween stop the Dark Queen before it’s too late?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A charming and fun end to the series, with promises of more possibly on the horizon.

And speaking of the Lubbock Sketch Club, the First Friday Art Trail hits this Friday, August 1, and the Sketch Club’s artists are going to be featured at an art show at the Lubbock Garden and Arts Center at 44th and University. Remember, the Art Trail runs from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, and many of the artists from the Sketch Club will be displaying their works, including comics, prints, and sketches, at tables at the Garden and Arts Center. And their works will be on display throughout the month of August, too — some of them will even be for sale. So if you’re not able to make it out for the Art Trail on Friday, you’ll still have a chance to stop by and see their artwork.

And as long as we’re talking about Sketch Club events, don’t forget the Lubbock Comic Book Workshop on August 9th! It’s going to be a great resource for any aspiring comic artists who want to learn how to improve their artwork!

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Death Plays to Win


The Spirit #19

We get a trio of stories in this issue. First, the Spirit recounts how he bested a childhood bully and earned a lifelong friend. Second, Spirit tries to track down a one-handed criminal called El Leproso who may have turned over a new leaf. And finally, a comic book writer has been murdered, and three different artists claim sole responsibility. Can the Spirit figure out who the true killer is?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is really a lot better than most of the Aragones/Evanier “Spirit” stories have tended to be, and I think the shorter stories are what’s responsible. Instead of trying to pad out 22 pages with lame jokes, we get shorter, more compact stories. I approve wholeheartedly, and I hope they keep the comic going in this vein.


Green Lantern Corps #26

Our core Corps members have been captured by the yellow-ring-powered Mongul and implanted with fear-inducing Black Mercy plants. Mongul lectures Mother Mercy about trying to betray him, then leaves like a sucker, while Mercy frees the GLs again. A terrific battle ensues, but the victory is finally won by the smallest of the Green Lanterns, Bzzd, an intelligent alien insect. Unfortunately, things don’t turn out so great for Bzzd, and the latest rings from both the Green Lanterns and the Sinestro Corps both seek out Mother Mercy…

Verdict: Thumbs down. Mostly a slugfest. We lose good characters like Bzzd, Mongul, and Duel. It all ends up feeling like I wasted my time reading it.


The Brave and the Bold #15

The cover just shows Hawkman and Nightwing, but Green Arrow and Deadman are also included in this team-up. Nightwing sends nearly all the world’s superheroes off to fight Trigon, but it’s just a ruse to get them off-planet when he hears Deadman’s story about Annuttara and his ghostly assassins. Yeah, Deadman is still alive — Green Arrow hadn’t really killed him, he just shot him and threw him off a mountain to give him a chance of getting back to warn the world’s heroes. But Nightwing doesn’t like the risk of getting a bunch of superheroes possessed and killed by ghosts, so he sends everyone away except for Hawkman, whose experience with past lives makes him an expert on ancient civilizations and ancient magics (Really? Whatever).

Meanwhile, in Nanda Parbat, Green Arrow is being horribly tortured and deformed by Annuttara, but Nightwing, Hawkman, and Deadman (who’s able to take solid form inside Nanda Parbat) attack, take out the ghost assassins, and try to free the imprisoned Rama Kushna. But they may have no chance of success after Nightwing throws himself off a cliff…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good story, good teamwork. And I thought it was pretty cool how Nightwing and Deadman, both former circus acrobats, got to trade some carnie lingo back and forth…

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Running Riot


1985 #3

It’s 1985 in a completely metahuman-free universe, and the dimension-hopping Marvel supervillains who’ve been hiding out in the old mansion outside of town are tired of hiding. As the police investigate last issue’s murders by Sandman and Electro, MODOK starts mind-controlling people to drown themselves in a lake, the Mole Man kidnaps a bunch of children, Ultron just starts slaughtering people, and none other than Fin Fang Foom lays seige to the town. Is there any hope for anyone? Not unless a bunch of superheroes start showing up soon…

Verdict: Thumbs up. I was actually getting a bit bored with this one, but it’s gotten a heck of a lot more interesting with the bad guys running wild. And I love the way they’re not being portrayed as comic-book villains — these are complete psychos with powers that no one on Earth has any way to counter. They’re not mere villains — they’re figures of absolute terror.


Birds of Prey #120

Continuing the confrontation from last issue, Manhunter thinks she’s got the stuff to take down Black Canary… but really, it’s not even close. Once Dinah has Kate dropped off back at Oracle’s HQ in Platinum Flats, she warns Barbara to back off of her, Green Arrow, and Speedy. Meanwhile, a character I’m not real familiar with, Infinity, uses her ghostlike powers to infiltrate the Visionary’s Silicon Syndicate. She discovers a very high-tech R&D lab which includes the corpse of the midget gadgeteer Gizmo… but it turns out he’s still fairly ambulatory. Babs scrambles Huntress to get Infinity to safety, while the Visionary and his goons get introduced to a nasty new competitor…

Verdict: Thumbs up. The entire issue is pretty enjoyable, but the bad guy who gets the brief walk-on part at the end is really gonna throw a spanner into the works.

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New Kids on the Block


Tiny Titans #6

This issue is, even by the standards set by the previous stories, uncommonly hilarious. We’ve got Blue Beetle and Supergirl getting introduced to the group; we’ve got another new crop of Titans, including Power Boy, Zatara, Li’l Barda, Lagoon Boy, Vulcan Jr., and Hawk and Dove; we’ve got Blue Beetle’s talking backpack; and we’ve got “At Home with the Trigons,” a tale of Raven and her demonic but loveable dad, Trigon.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Like I said, this one is just amazingly funny, especially Blue Beetle’s backpack antics and the wonderful banter between cynical Raven and her terrifyingly huggable dad. But if there’s anything that just puts it over the top, it’s got to be Li’l Barda.


Holy guacamole, someone call Cute Overload!


Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #26

The Avengers get recruited by the rudest aliens in the universe to help stop Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds, from eating a distant planet. Galactus and the Silver Surfer have the team on the ropes, until Ant-Man finds the Ultimate Nullifier — Galactus warns them that activating it would destroy light-years’ worth of outer-space real estate… so Spidey turns it on. D’oh! No, wait, actually, it just nullifies everyone’s power differences — in other words, it’s leveled the playing field, so Galactus can’t just wipe them all out. So instead, they all decide to play games to decide whether Galactus will be able to eat the planet. It sounds ridiculous, but it actually works very well. Everyone plays baseball, poker, and chess, but in the end, it’s easier just to find a new meal for Galactus…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very funny stuff here, including Captain America’s not-so-inspiring speech, Galactus swinging a baseball bat, and just about every joke Spider-Man makes. Spidey even gets a rare display of intellect here, as he deduces the real function of the Nullifier. Lots and lots of fun here — I’m really glad Jeff Parker is back writing this comic.

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Link City


Here’s a stack of links I’ve been saving up for you guys.

* Whatever happened to the kids from “Peanuts” after the comic strip stopped? Depends who you ask. I’ve always loved Peter Gillis’ version of their future. This one is probably a bit less likely, but anything that has a futuristic cybernetically-enhanced Charlie Brown killing off the soldiers from Beetle Bailey’s Camp Swampy is probably worth reading.

* The “Project: Rooftop” blog periodically gets artists to create a new look for famous comic characters — their latest project is a redesign of the Man of Steel

* PETA, of all people, has picked out a list of the top animal-friendly superheroes.

* Maxo ponders whether the weakening economy will affect comics sales.

* Aaron Williams, creator of “PS238” and “Nodwick,” has a blog crammed with cool stuff? Muy excellente!

* Snell is not at all impressed with DC’s fairly weak attempts to catch up with Marvel’s work on digital comics.

* A short fan film about Power Girl trying to get a normal job. It’s pretty amazing how well the actress playing Power Girl embodies the character — I mean, sure, she looks good in the costume, but she really gets her personality perfectly.

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The Horror Gang


The Goon #26

Bill and Charlie Mudd, a couple of dimwitted bog-lurks who are on the Goon’s side of the battle, are unexpectedly ambushed by Labrazio and the Zombie Master’s forces. Realizing that the Mudd Brothers couldn’t have been attacked unless someone was informing on the good guys, the Goon recruits the local orphans to infiltrate Madame Elsa’s burlesque parlor and see who’s been talking to Labrazio. The kids sneak in disguised as “a grown man with a mustache,” and proceed to clumsily hit on waitresses and demand brewskis… because isn’t that what grown men with mustaches do in burlesque houses? Anyway, they find out who the traitor is, and the Goon later tortures the poor stooge to death.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Things are still really, really grim and depressing, but there are still some great moments for humor, thanks to the kids and their awful disguise.


B.P.R.D.: The Warning #1

While Abe Sapien and a group of B.P.R.D. agents camp in the snow looking for the missing Ben Daimo, Liz Sherman, Kate Corrigan, Johann Kraus, and Panya the reanimated mummy conduct a seance to contact the spirit of Lobster Johnson. They’re rewarded with an eerie shower of Lobster’s calling cards and a mysterious name spelled out on a wall — a name that Panya is familiar with from the 19th century. It turns out that he’s the snake-festooned mystic who’s been haunting Liz’s dreams, so Panya goes on a telepathic quest to track him down.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s been a while since we saw a B.P.R.D. comic that was so completely dedicated to horror and creepy imagery — the pages with the downpour of Lobster cards alone are worth the price of the comic.

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