Archive for July, 2010

Silver Agent Man

Astro City Special: Silver Agent #1

In Kurt Busiek’s epic “Astro City” series, the Silver Agent is one of the guys who ties everything together. He’s at least as important a character as the all-powerful Samaritan — he’s the symbol of how the Silver Age of comics fell before the Dark Ages that came afterwards. His backstory has him being accused of murdering a supervillain, put on trial, convicted, and executed — only for everyone to discover after his death that the villain had faked his death — the Silver Agent had been executed unjustly. And even worse, a time-traveling Silver Agent began to appear at various crisis points after his death — heroes and citizens begged him not to return to the past and his ultimate execution, but he refused, intent on sacrificing himself to preserve the timeline.

We finally get some more of his story. We start out in the distant future of the 43rd century, where the Agent had been pulled so he could assist the heroes of the future against a supercomputer called the iGod (snicker). Once they defeat it, using a code-bomb called a Tweet (snicker), the Agent remembers his past as a polio-crippled kid in a family full of hard-working public servants. Wanting to serve his community, he teaches himself to walk and gets a job as a mailman — not the most glamorous career, but something to help him feel he’s contributing. When he uncovers an attempt to rig an election, he tries to stop the crooks but gets chased into a cave, where he discovers a glowing silver machine that heals and empowers him, giving him the strength to fight off his attackers and become a hero. Can the Agent overcome the temptation to stay in the safe, comfortable future and avoid his fated death?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A very cool story so far, with excellent dialogue, characterization, and humor, and fans of “Astro City” will definitely want to read this.

Mystery Society #2

While Anastasia Collins welcomes the Secret Skull, an undead adventurer, into the Mystery Society, Nick Hammond is in Area 51 rescuing a couple of genetically-engineered psychic little girls. Of course, once freed from captivity, they’ve got powerful enough abilities to knock the stuffing out of the government’s secret war machines. But once they get back to the Mystery Society’s headquarters, they learn that the government is already busy manufacturing false spin to turn Nick, Ana, and their associates into the bad guys. After that, the Society’s next new member literally falls from the sky — the brain of Jules Verne inside a steampunk robot body! And after that, the military attacks — is there any way to escape? Well, turns out the Mystery Society has its own flying saucer

Verdict: Thumbs up. Really, the story is running all over the place, seemingly at random. But I’ll forgive a lot for the sake of flying saucers and the disembodied brain of Jules Verne..

Girl Comics #3

Final issue of this anthology series dedicated to women creators. Besides another edition of Colleen Coover’s endlessly awesome introduction, we get Marjorie Liu and Sara Pichelli with a cute story about Wolverine and Jubilee; Louise Simonson, June Brigman, and Rebecca Buchman with a story about the Power Pack taking on a babysitting job for the X-Men; Lea Hernandez bringing us a look at the latest battle between Wolverine and Magneto; Carla Speed McNeil inviting us all along for Kitty Pryde’s 21st birthday party; and a couple of stories about characters I don’t even recognize.

Verdict: I’ll thumbs-up it, even though I didn’t recognize all the characters, ’cause I did enjoy most of the stories here. Wow, this one was almost the All-Wolverine issue…

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Friday Night Fights: Gog Smacked!

It’s the final regular round of Friday Night Fights for at least a few weeks. The rule that SpaceBooger decreed for us was simply no character repeats — if you used a fighter once, you couldn’t use him or her again.

So far, I’ve used Detective Chimp; Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk, Storm, and Giant-Girl; Elsa Bloodstone (who got the most votes for that week — good for me!); Goody Rickles; Batgirl; Howard the Duck (another winner!); Welsh Rarebit; Supergirl; Batman; Bulldozer; and Parker.

This week, we’re going old-school — from November 1968’s Justice League of America #66 by Dennis O’Neil, Dick Dillin, and Sid Greene, here’s Superman getting challenged by the way, way overconfident Generalissimo Demmy Gog:

I know they call it liquid courage, but you might better ease up on the booze this weekend, just to make sure you don’t end up like General Gog…

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The Malign Murdersphere of Monsters, Madmen, and Motorcars!

Strange Science Fantasy #1

This was really, really nice, but I’m really not sure how to describe it. Think of it as a combination of a ’50s atomic horror movie and a ’70s teen rebellion drag race exploitation flick. It was written and illustrated by Scott Morse without anything like word balloons — just hyper-cool artwork and breathlessly excited captions.

Here’s the thing — I started reading this, couldn’t get into it, set it down, and moved on to another comic. After a few minutes, I realized what I was doing wrong. I picked it back up and started reading it out loud, with the voice of an announcer from a ’50s sci-fi movie trailer and with an internal soundtrack by Rob Zombie.

At that point, lines like “The time: Soon! The place: The asphalt! The world of speed-demons would complete their final lap on a crash-course… with destiny!” made perfect, flame-scorching, skin-flaying sense. It was the least passive comic I’d ever gotten to read, and it felt awesome.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not just for Scott Morse creating an epic, cinematic comic, either. The actual tactile feel of the book is great, too — not your usual glossy paper, it’s rougher and heavier, and it feels like a pulp novel in your hands. IDW Publishing did a great job with this one.

Somewhat off-topic, but big kudos to IDW, Dark Horse, and Boom — they’re the companies doing the best work to move comics forward as an art form and storytelling medium, not Marvel or DC.

The Unwritten #15

Lizzie Hexam has returned to her original home — which may be inside some Dickensian novel. Apparently, she was pulled out of it and offered a better life in the modern world as someone who would study and keep track of Tom Taylor. Now she briefly gets stalked by some London lowlifes, but she dispenses with them with some well-aimed shots from her very modern gun. Meanwhile, Tom and Savoy are being led around the city by a series of clues — each is a reference to a famous work of British literature that sends them to a new location in London. But eventually, the police catch up to them and realize they’re dealing with the infamous murderer Tom Taylor — and then the vampiric Count Ambrosio attacks. But they’re finally saved by Wilson Taylor himself, Tom’s long-missing father and the author of the world-famous Tommy Taylor novels. But isn’t evil literary assassin Pullman looking for a chance to rub Wilson Taylor out?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not the best issue of this series, but still pretty good. Good dialogue, decent action, fun clue-tracking, and it’s nice to finally get a glimpse of Wilson Taylor himself.

Chew #12

Tony Chu, cannibal for the FDA, is enjoying cohabitational bliss with his new girlfriend, Amelia Mintz, the world’s greatest and most vivid food reviewer. But he’s called away so he can help the FDA track down Poyo, a rooster in a luchador mask who is the most devastating cockfighter in history. (I can say “cockfight,” can’t I? Cockfight. There, I did it. HA HA.) Poyo has been stolen away by some crooks, so the FDA assigns Tony to go with one of their more rotten stool pigeons to try to buy the bird back. But the crooks have personal grudges against the stool pigeon, and they’re willing to let Tony get killed in the crossfire. Can Tony use a single bullet to get free?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very clever story, lots of amusing situations, and a great cliffhanger. And it’s nice to see Poyo again — can’t go wrong with a luchador chicken…

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Here’s to Crime

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Man with the Getaway Face – A Prelude to “The Outfit”

My, my, my, looka here. Here’s how this goes. Darwyn Cooke wanted to adapt four of the “Parker” hardboiled crime novels by Donald Westlake (writing as Richard Stark). He was going to adapt the first four, but there were some of the later novels he wanted to work on more, so he eliminated two, including the second Parker novel, “The Man with the Getaway Face.” But it turned out, he kinda needed that second one, ’cause he needed to make sure readers knew that Parker had gotten plastic surgery to disguise his appearance. So instead of doing a full-length adaptation, he cut it down to just 24 pages, so he could use it as the introduction in his next graphic novel.

And because he’s so nice to us, he and IDW Publishing went and released that first chapter as a stand-alone comic.

And they made it oversized.

And they priced it as two dollars.


So what happens? Parker gets his new face to help him hide out from the Mob, but it’s taken out a bunch of his money, so he needs to heist some cash fast. He partners up with some old associates, Skim and Handy, and Skim’s new girlfriend Alma, a diner waitress who clued Skim in on an armored truck that’d be easy pickings for a job. But Parker doesn’t trust Alma — and for good reason. Will Parker be able to grab the dough and get away clean? Or is everyone looking at time in the pen?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a short, fast heist thriller, with artwork by the always-brilliant Darwyn Cooke. And it’s only two freakin’ dollars. The only downside? This thing is colossal, and I have no idea where I’m going to store it. Nevertheless, at two measly bucks, it’s more than a bargain. Pick it up, or you’re a stone fool.

iZombie #3

While Claire the vampire sets her sights on Spot’s friend Ashok, the monster hunters stalk her in return. Meanwhile, Spot, in full-blown were-terrier mode, meets with Gwen the zombie and Ellie the ghost to bring them some more evidence in Gwen’s ongoing murder investigation into who killed the last guy whose brain she snacked on. The investigation leads to a spooky old house, and Ellie, trusting in her ghostly status to keep her safe and undetected, goes in to have a look around. Things don’t turn out the way she was expecting. Is everyone about to get their supernatural secrets exposed?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A very fun story and really excellent art. Extra points for Laura Allred’s coloring — she’s going for an old-school comics look, with cool halftone effects. Yeah, Mike Allred’s art is great, but Laura Allred’s coloring is making this one look really unique.

Jonah Hex #57

A lot of our framework in this story comes from a couple of kids telling tall tales about Jonah Hex’s fabled exploits, like killing ten outlaws with a single bullet. They hear that Hex is going to be in a nearby town, so they sneak out late at night so they can see what he looks like. And they get more than they bargained for — namely, a bunch of old DC western heroes, like the Trigger Twins, Bat Lash, Scalphunter, Nighthawk, and Cinnamon. And of course, there’s a big gunfight. And some snoopy kids getting in trouble, but getting their own tall tale they can tell later…

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s one of the lighter Jonah Hex stories I’ve seen, but I really enjoyed it anyway. It’s cool to see all those old DC characters — and most of them aren’t just guest appearances for the sake of renewing the copyrights — several characters get some actual business and plotpoints of their own. It was a good, fun, and pretty over-the-top story — hope we get to see more of these from time to time.

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Lord, What Fools These Mortals Be!

Kill Shakespeare #3

Hamlet has been rescued from Iago by Falstaff, while Richard III makes a political bargain with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Falstaff tells Hamlet that the wizard Shakespeare is actually a good guy, and they’re both visited briefly by another of Shakespeare’s allies, the fearsome but diminutive faerie called Puck. The travelers visit an inn to rest but are ambushed by Richard’s men. Their disguises as some of the inn’s whores is quickly seen through, but they still manage to make their escape. Macbeth, however, finds himself on the wrong end of a betrayal.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I was kinda not expecting to like this one as much as I did, but the appearance of more and more of Shakespeare’s characters is helping to keep this entertaining. The art is very nice — loved the eerie appearance of Robin Goodfellow, and Falstaff is perfectly rendered. I also liked the way Richard’s men wore noticeably different uniforms than Macbeth’s soldiers — you’d expect both to wear stereotypical medieval armor, but they don’t. And I thought the increasingly rude, crude, and lewd nature of the story actually worked pretty well — remember, Shakespeare’s plays were often pretty raunchy…

Hellboy: The Storm #1

Well, Hellboy’s the rightful heir to the British throne, and Britain’s noble dead will soon be rising from their graves to serve him. And by coincidence, Hellboy and his friend Alice are investigating a strange church burglary — someone stole the bodies of three ancient knights. But the priest confides after the local police have left that what he actually saw were the knights leaving the church on their own. Hellboy tells Alice that he’s given up drinking after spending the last few years pretty hopelessly sauced. After a very weird incident with a guy ominously ringing a bell (seriously, doesn’t sound like much, but it’s way creepy), they’re both attacked by a monster pledging to be just the first of an army that will wipe humanity off the face of the earth.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Loves me some good creepy Hellboy comics. Writing by Mike Mignola, art by Duncan Fegredo, and awesomeness all over the place.

Chimichanga #3

The monstrous Chimichanga has been captured by the police, and Lula the bearded girl has been kidnapped by Dinderly Pharmaceuticals, who need her chin-whiskers to make their new flatulence drug. Wrinkle, the old man who owns Wrinkle’s Traveling Circus, can’t find any legal help, and most of the circus performers hate both Lula and Chimichanga, so they won’t help. Only Heratio the Boy-Faced Fish is willing to help raid the city pound to rescue Chimichanga. But even if Chimichanga can find Lula, do they have any hope against the corporate might of a heartless pharmaceutical megacorporation?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yes, it’s goofy and gross the way you’d expect from an Eric Powell comic, but it’s also got more than its share of sweetness in it, too. (Appreciate the sacrifice, kids — Powell will now order me hunted down and killed for noticing that…)

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Joker in the Deck

Batman and Robin #13

Oberon Sexton’s true identity has been revealed — not a masked detective and mystery writer, he’s actually the Joker. He claims to have turned over a new leaf without the old Batman around to torment, but can anyone trust anything he says? Dick Grayson soon determines that Dr. Hurt, the man who tried to kill Bruce Wayne and claimed to be either Dr. Thomas Wayne or the Devil, is back on the scene and has managed to infect almost everyone in Gotham City with a contagious addiction. And while Robin confronts the Joker and prepares to beat him to death with a crowbar, Dick and Commissioner Gordon come under attack from Professor Pyg’s Dollotrons.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Amazing artwork from Frazer Irving, amazing writing from Grant Morrison. Lots of dominos being uncovered, lots more falling. Everything with the Joker is brilliant — I really can’t tell right now if he’s reformed because his Batman is gone or if he’s just pulling another scam. We don’t see much of Dr. Hurt, but what we do see is wonderful and scary. I get the feeling this storyarc is going to be pretty awesome.

Secret Six #23

This one is apparently a flashback, an untold story, dating from before Issue #19. Don’t know why we’re not seeing it ’til now, but ehh, whatever. We’re on a Carribean island where a kingpin called himself Nero has set up a special hunting range for a bunch of wealthy psychopaths allowing them to hunt and kill human beings using powered armor and remote-controlled drones. But killing a bunch of normals isn’t all that much fun for these guys. But Nero has a treat in store — he’s hired the Secret Six for a job — or in reality, so he can set them up as the prey for the next day’s hunt. Anyone wanna guess how this one’s going to end?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Sometimes, it’s just fun to see rich douchemooks bite off more than they can chew.

JSA All-Stars #8

So there’s this South American country called Parador, and they’re killing crooks in the US by basically sacrificing some of them to their weird gods and dosing others with a drug that makes them see their weird gods. Sounds like a pretty, um, weird country. After Cyclone tries to start up a relationship with King Chimera, most of the team travels to Parador where they end up running into some of the Paradoran gods, including some leopard and monkey monsters and a giant spider.

Verdict: A little from Column A, a little from Column B. It’s a bit of a confusing plotline, but it’s playing out well. Maybe it’ll make more sense later.

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Power and Thunder

Thor and the Warriors Four #4

Loki and the Enchantress are triumphant — their spell has turned Thor and the other Asgardians into babies, and they’ve obtained the Golden Apples of Idunn, ensuring themselves immortality — and without the Golden Apples, everyone else in Asgard is now rapidly aging to their true ages of several thousand years old. The kids in Power Pack seem largely helpless to stop them, aside from talking a little smack. And even worse, the whole thing appears to have kicked off Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods and the end of the world. Jormungand, the immense World Serpent, appears to fight Thor. Alex Power is able to call on the help of Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers, but they can’t do much against a giant dragon fated to strangle the world. Will Thor have to sacrifice himself to save everyone? Or is someone else worthy to assist?

Verdict: Thumbs up times a billion. This was the best comic I got last week. Absolutely HUGE props to writer Alex Zalben and artists Gurihiru for this one — I haven’t had this much fun reading a comic book in ages. I’m trying to limit the spoilers, but there was a ton of funny stuff in here, and a ton-and-a-half of awesome stuff going on in here. There were about a dozen panels in this comic that could be entered in a Most Awesome Comics Panel of the Year contest, but I can’t show most of them to you, because they’d be spoilers, and this story is just too cool to spoil. I can, however, show you this:

Beta Ray Bill with an afro? I would watch a TV show based on that alone.

Oh, heck, we didn’t even talk about Colleen Coover‘s backup feature, with Hercules babysitting the Power siblings and telling them stories about his Twelve Labors. There’s not a lot of real plot going on here — it’s really just Herc telling stories and philosophizin’ about mythology and science — but it’s still a whole boatload of awesome. Coover’s characterization of Hercules is just perfect, and the final panel of this one should definitely be entered into that Most Awesome Comics Panel of the Year contest, too.

Tails of the Pet Avengers: The Dogs of Summer #1

This is really just a showcase of Chris Eliopoulos‘s very cute Franklin Richards stories, with a few guest appearances from the Pet Avengers. In the first one, Franklin accidentally creates a giant garbage monster and must defeat it with the assistance of the Pet Avengers. Later, Franklin has to dogsit Lockjaw for the Inhumans, and he gets his first dog, Lockjaw’s grandson, courtesy of his future self. And there’s a story illustrated by Ig Guara that features Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Fin Fang Foom and sets up this fall’s “Avengers vs. the Pet Avengers” series.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Mostly reprints, but they’re fun reprints.

Hercules: Twilight of a God #2

In the distant future, Hercules is the hero of the Andromeda Galaxy, and his kids and grandkids are the rulers of the planet Wilamean. But Hercules is being attacked by a new Silver Surfer, and a black hole threatens to swallow the entire galaxy. Can Hercules survive the battle? Can anyone?

Verdict: Ehh, thumbs down. I liked it on my first read-through, but the non-stop slugfest just didn’t do very well on repeated readings.

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Friday Night Fights: All Choked Up!

Well, okay, I’ve had most of the week off, but now I’m back and ready to really get my nose to the grindstone… and then go right back to the weekend. Huzzah!

So anyway, my week away from blogging sure didn’t mean I didn’t have to deal with all the usual workweek frustrations, and that means it’s definitely time to work some of those irritations away with a little gratuitous violence. In other words, it’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

This week’s fight comes from August 2009’s Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter, based on the novel by Richard Stark and adapted by Darwyn Cooke, as hard-boiled criminal Parker finally catches up to lowlife sleaze Mal Resnick.

That is not a smile that says “Hey, guys, let’s go get diet sodas and play Pictionary!”

And I couldn’t bring myself to break this next one up into individual panels, so here’s a whole page of Parker strangling Mal to death.

Holy cow, that’s great stuff. I’ve recommended y’all get this before, haven’t I? Well, seriously, y’all go pick this one up.

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A Bunch of Short Reviews, Followed by a Hiatus

I got a great big stack of comics sitting on the desk, all ready to start reviewing for the week.

And I’m also getting a bit tired of blogging. The weather is nice, I’ve got a stack of interesting new games I could be playing, I’ve got a bunch of books I never have time to read, and I’ve got non-blog writing I’ve been wanting to do forever. The blog gets in the way of all of that.

So here’s what I’m gonna do — get all these comics reviewed today, then take most of the rest of the week off, except for Friday Night Fights. Maybe I can recharge my batteries, maybe I’ll get some writing done, maybe I’ll actually finish a book for once.

So here we go…

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #18

Batman teams up with the Martian Manhunter to take on Ma’Alefa’Ak, the other last survivor of Mars, and later, Dr. Fate assists when Batman is possessed by the evil Martian.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Fun story with a few twists and turns. Evil Batman is lotsa fun.

The Flash #3

Captain Boomerang gets magic black-lantern boomerangs, Barry Allen gets in trouble at work, and the Flash gets chased by the futuristic Rogue-inspired cops

Verdict: Thumbs down. It’s just not particularly fun or exciting.

Green Lantern #55

Lobo’s in town, and that means a bunch of ring-slingers are gonna get beat up. All that, plus the origin story of adorable rage-filled Red Lantern cat Dex-Starr!

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of great stuff, including Hal on a space motorcycle. And the Dex-Starr origin is worth the price of admission all on its own.

Heralds #5

Nova has kidnapped Valeria Richards, and all the heroines have to go into space to rescue her. Will Frances the diner waitress be able to assist with her mysterious connections to Nova? Or is someone gonna die?

Verdict: Thumbs down. Not enough of Tonci Zonjic’s artwork. Too much confusion in the plot. A whole lot of stuff unresolved. This series started really well — I’m disappointed it ended so poorly.

Joe the Barbarian #6

Joe makes it to Hearth Castle, a deeply friendly and comforting place, where everyone promises to make his life completely happy. But Zyxy and Smoot track him down and try to get him to return to his quest.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Two issues left ’til the end of this one. Joe has to get a soda and try to save both himself and this weird little fantasy world that may be a lot more real than we expect.

Legion of Super-Heroes #2

While the Legionaires try to clean up after the destruction of Titan, Saturn Queen takes control of Ultra Boy, Earth-Man tries, probably deceitfully, to win his new teammates’ trust, and Saturn Girl travels time to find her children.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Too much stuff happening! Come on, it’s just the second issue — shouldn’t there be a little lead-up before we get this many subplots going on at once?

Madame Xanadu #24

Rosalyn is trying to live a normal life, but she’s begun to see visions of normal people with horrific injuries — visions that no one else can see. Can Madame Xanadu help cure her?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very nice work, great setting details for 1963. Rosalyn is a very appealing character. The art by Marley Zarcone is different than normal for this book, but it works very well.

Supergirl #53

The War of the Supermen is over, and New Krypton is destroyed, and now Supergirl doesn’t much wanna be Supergirl anymore. But a new Bizarro Supergirl may soon force that issue.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice characterization, nice dialogue, cool art. Supergirl’s desire to get out of the spandex-wearing career is written really well.

Aaaaand that’s that. See y’all Friday evening.

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Friday Night Fights: Beating up Nazis!

Hey, it’s the Friday before the Fourth of July! You know what that means? Yeah, it’s time for WILDLY PATRIOTIC FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Now we could go with a superhero wearing red, white, and blue, but we’re gonna go with someone else instead — and it’s gonna be someone participating in the Great American Pastime — kicking Nazi butt! From July 1962’s Our Army at War #120 by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert, here’s Easy Company’s Bulldozer singlehandedly blasting through a Nazi machine gun nest:

Yeeeeaaaah! USA! USA! USA! Whooooo!

Merry pre-Fourth to youse guys, and careful with them firecrackers!

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