Archive for August, 2010

Avengers Assembling!

The New Avengers #3

Some new magical interdimensional villain has kidnapped Iron Fist, because he had the bad fortune to be holding the Eye of Agamotto. But they can’t actually take the Eye from him, which gives him a lot more leeway than he might’ve expected. Meanwhile, on Earth, the absence of the Eye has lead to an invasion of interdimensional demons, who immediately get busy tearing New York City apart. While the Avengers fight the demons, Dr. Strange, Dr. Voodoo, and Daimon Hellstrom leave for Voodoo’s Sactum so they can figure out how to get rid of the demons. And the bad news is — they’ve got no idea. Where does that leave the heroes trying to keep the Big Apple safe? Nowhere good, that’s for sure.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent patter in this one, especially between Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, and the Thing, and during Victoria Hand‘s very entertaining rant in her car about being forced to work with the Avengers. Aside from that, the action is good, the art is great, and the revelation of the Big Bad is a pretty unexpected surprise.

Avengers Academy #3

I missed an issue of this one — either not enough got delivered to my local store here in Denton, or there was a lot of unexpected demand for it. But this one looked interesting to me from the beginning, and I didn’t want to give up on it just because I missed the second issue.

So in this issue, besides getting some insight into Hazmat’s terrifically toxic powers and her extremely depressing life, and sitting in on an example of why no one should let Valkyrie teach students anything (it involves beer and sex toy demonstrations), everyone takes a field trip to the Raft, a high-tech prison for supervillains run by Luke Cage and the Thunderbolts. The idea is to let the Thunderbolts give the kids the “Scared Straight” treatment, but Hazmat, Mettle, and Veil have other ideas — they’ve found out Norman Osborn is being held at the Raft, and they want revenge for the way he tortured them. But if they sabotage the prison’s security measures to get at Osborn, they may end up causing a gigantic breakout…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good dialogue, wonderful art, and lots of fun characters. Pretty much everything with Juggernaut on the page is a solid winner. I do have some quibbles — I’m not sure I like the idea of Speedball being a cutter — I think I’ve had more than enough of emo Speedball. And I’m not sure I believe that a super-prison like the Raft wouldn’t have some defenses against an electromagnetic pulse.

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Fun with Rhinos

Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes #5

Captain America takes on a simple mission — he’s gotten a call that someone in a small town in Montana is illegally holding a baby rhinoceros for experimentation. Does he need a hand from any of the other Avengers? Nah, simple grab-and-go mission, piece of cake. Well, he finds out that the Montana town is actually a disguised HYDRA base with 5,000 members on site. And the person who called him for help? It’s Spider-Man’s old foe, the Rhino. But does Captain America back down from something like that? HECK NO! He goes in, beats up HYDRA dorks, steals some normal clothing so he can blend in with the city full of paranoid crazy people who want to conquer the world, and hangs out with the Rhino. The problem is that the cute baby rhino named Bartleby is going to be experimented on and killed because HYDRA thinks they can make an army of guys like Rhino — he knows that isn’t possible, and especially not just by killing a cute baby rhino. So Cap has to sneak a huge, superstrong, and completely unsubtle supervillain out of town, along with a mostly defenseless baby rhino. How on earth is that going to be possible?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Really cute and fun story. Nice emphasis on Cap, and a lot of fun with both the Rhino and Bartleby. And the art is by ChrisCross, an old favorite of mine from back when he was drawing “Blood Syndicate,” so getting a nice dose of his art is definitely a bonus for me.

Booster Gold #35

Booster and Skeets are in the past on a mission with Blue Beetle, Mister Miracle, and Big Barda as they try to get a magic book from a dweeby world conqueror wannabe named Hieronymous the Underachiever. Hieronymous has a trick up his sleeve — or rather in orbit, ready to destroy the planet he’s on with a giant weapon called a Planet Pounder. The Darkstars are looking for it without much success, and Hieronymous is using the Planet Pounder as blackmail to try to get the former ruler to reveal the secrets of the book to him. Can the heroes get the book, defeat Hieronymous’ minions, and stop the Planet Pounder in time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s always fun to see Giffen and DeMatteis working on the old Bwa-ha-ha Justice League, and they’ve got the story moving along very well. Booster’s more recent maturity is nicely contrasted with the way his old teammates still expect him to behave.

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Buzzard’s Blues

Buzzard #3

The Buzzard is on a quest to find something that is mutating humans into deadly monsters. He’s leading a boy, who was assigned to be his guide because the village he lived in thought he was worthless, and a dancing girl, who the Buzzard rescued from a cult. Buzzard tells the kid why he never smiles — he’s an immortal, he’s seen just about everything, and he never feels awe for anything he sees anymore. The woman flees or is dragged away one night, but Buzzard and the boy eventually find their way to the temple where the giant monster who’s responsible for all of this lives. After telling the boy to hide himself, Buzzard goes into the temple to challenge the beast. But the monster is also immortal and, like Buzzard, tired of living. Will either of them make it out alive, or will both find the death they’ve been looking for?

In the backup story about Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities, Billy and his freak-show cohorts rescue Jeffrey, but are pursued by the witch and her monstrous baby. They make their escape and learn the tragic history behind both of the monsters.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The Buzzard’s story is unexpectedly sad and sweet. Strong characterization and dialogue, plus Eric Powell’s always-cool artwork. The backup story was fun, too — and even better, it’s going to be getting its own series soon.

Zatanna #4

While running some shows out of Las Vegas, Zatanna takes out the local version of the Royal Flush Gang — this batch isn’t themed on playing cards but on the Rat Pack. Later, she meets up with a mysterious casino owner, runs into her cousin, Zachary Zatara, who has invited a bunch of people up to her room to party and trash the place, and has a less-than-successful outing against some fire demons.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The rest of the story is fine, but I really enjoyed the Rat Pack-impersonating Royal Flush Gang who take up the first few pages of the story. They’re a surprisingly fun twist, and a natural for Sin City.

The Unwritten #16

Tom Taylor has finally met up with his supposedly-dead father, fantasy novelist Wilson Taylor, while super-assassin Pullman and the great literary conspiracy tries to hunt them all down. Lizzie Hexam, meanwhile, exploring the old Victorian novel where she was apparently born, discovers that you really can’t go home again. Wilson explains a few mysteries to Tom and gives Savoy a story for his paper, but it’s not long before Pullman tracks them down. Will any of them escape alive? And what’s to become of Wilson Taylor’s literary legacy when the awful (and fake) new Tommy Taylor novel is released?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good action, good dialogue and characterization, some mysteries revealed and a few more kicked up in their place. It’s a nice way to end this storyarc — looking forward to seeing what comes next.

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Feet of Clay

Batgirl #13

Stephanie Brown is enjoying a normal collegiate life, if normal includes stuff like “epic ping-pong.” But she gets called out by Proxy, Steph’s new tech manager, to help take care of a shootout. Only thing is it ain’t just a common shootout — the shooter is actually Clayface in disguise. Clayface gets away, but Proxy traces him to a nearby bank, so Batgirl leads Det. Gage and the rest of the Gotham P.D. in, where Steph finds him trying to enter the bank vault in the guise of the bank manager. Of course, this leads to Batgirl fighting a shapeshifter who looks exactly like… Batgirl. Can Steph get out of this without the Gotham cops filling her full of lead?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice, self-contained story. Stephanie’s ping-pong battle is great fun, and as always, the dialogue and humor are fantastic. And it’s always fun to see Clayface in a story.

Strange Science Fantasy #2

Scott Morse‘s whacked-out pulp fiction series continues, this time with a story about mankind on the ropes from an invasion of deadly sea life. A Japanese warrior is inspired to forge an armored spacesuit and travels into space to consult with a being called the Cosmic Mind. He tells the Shogunaut that he must destroy a sea-going brute called the Knucklehead. But someone is hiding the true story from the combatants — can the Shogunaut and the Knucklehead find common ground?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Like the first issue, this one is a great experience. Wonderful artwork, wonderful paper, captions that demand the comic be read out loud, and a great one-page backup from Paul Pope.

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A Dose of Awesome: Apes and Monkeys!

I have again been neglecting my responsibilities to jam pure awesomeness directly into your forebrain, but I will now remedy that situation by jamming pure awesomeness directly into your forebrain… with apes and monkeys!

Apes and monkeys are not, of course, the same thing — an ape is a different critter than a monkey. They’re all primates, of course, but apes include gibbons, orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans, while monkeys include spider monkeys, howler monkeys, baboons, mandrills, proboscis monkeys, capuchins, and (hee hee) titi monkeys, as well as many, many more.

We may think of them as our hairier, less sophisticated cousins, but apes and monkeys are capable of many amazing feats, ranging from traveling into space to running large and unusually awesome libraries. They can help the handicapped, act in movies and TV shows, and even be elected to city councils!

But they are not to be underestimated. Sure, chimpanzees look cute and harmless and fun, don’t they? But chimpanzees are stronger and faster than humans, and attacking chimps have seriously mutilated and killed several people in the past. Our primate cousins could mess us up pretty good if they wanted to.

Nevertheless, their many skills and their aptitude for ass-whuppin’ combine to make monkeys and apes just ridiculously awesome, and they’ve been rewarded with lots of love from the entertainment community. Comics have loved apes for over fifty years, with DC’s Silver Age devotion to apes and monkeys being particularly strong — Detective Chimp, Congorilla, Gorilla Grodd, Titano, Monsieur Mallah, and the Mod Gorilla Boss all got their starts in the ’50s and ’60s, and more modern ape characters have included Gorilla-Man, King Solomon, Rex Mantooth, Cy-Gor, Brainiape, Axewell Tiberius from “Monkeyman and O’Brien,” and the Kriegaffes that show up from time to time in the “Hellboy” comics.

How much do people love apes and monkeys? Just look at this page.

Monkeys and apes are awesome.

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Book of Dreams

Daytripper #9

It’s the next-to-the-last issue of this incredible series. Brás de Oliva Domingos is — well, he’s everywhere. A wide variety of ages. Sometimes a boy, sometimes an adult, sometimes married, sometimes visiting old friends and relatives, sometimes a completely different person. He’s dreaming, he can’t seem to wake up, and there’s something he needs to learn.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Thumbs up. Thumbs up. People, if you haven’t been reading this, you should’ve been. See if you can find the back issues. See if you can hunker down and wait for the trade paperback. This one is going to win awards, it’s going to wind up on everyone’s “Best of 2010” lists, it’s going to be the type of story they teach in textbooks someday. It’s a beautifully illustrated and beautifully written story, and I hope you’ll go buy it and enjoy it.

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – New World #1

It’s definitely a new world for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense — they have a new mandate from the United Nations, a much larger staff and budget, and a new global focus on the supernatural threats popping up all over the world. While new field director Kate Corrigan works to coordinate worldwide operations, Abe Sapien heads up north to investigate a string of mysterious disappearances. Andrew Devon still worries that Abe is somehow allied with the recently defeated frogs, and Johann Kraus is deeply wishing he had his old body back again. What other secret threats and resentments are lurking in wait for everyone?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice new start for everyone, with several new interpersonal subplots that we haven’t had to deal with before — the tensions between Abe, Andrew, and Kate are going to end up being pretty interesting. Guy Davis’s artwork is as interesting as ever — he doesn’t do the prettiest, glossiest art, but he’s brilliant with characterization and mood — his facial expressions are great, and the scene where Abe discovers how empty the Canadian town has gotten is wonderfully creepy.

Birds of Prey #4

Eeeeverybody’s in trouble. Black Canary is taking on the White Canary, who is at least as good a fighter as Dinah is and quite likely better. Savant and Creote are planning on dropping Babs Gordon off a bridge. Hawk may be dying of poison, and the Penguin has just stabbed Lady Blackhawk because he thinks he’s going to be given a database that includes the secret identities of every superhero on Earth. Things are dire all around, and several sacrifices are going to have to be made if everyone is going to get out alive.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not the greatest story in the world, but Gail Simone structures it very entertainingly. The tidbits we get from the White Canary’s life are pretty interesting, the fight scenes are good, and Oracle’s confrontation with Savant is quite nice.

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Gods and Monsters

Hercules: Twilight of a God #3

Herc’s Skrull friend Skyppi is old and dying, trying to plan out his post-death existence as some random inanimate object. Hercules is brought into the hospital, comatose after his battle against the new Silver Surfer, and a convention of alien diplomats converges on Wilamean to negotiate on whether or not they’ll help evacuate the planet before a Galactus-powered black hole destroys everything. But a terrorist attack destroys all the diplomatic ships, leaving all those aliens stranded on a world that’s going to be destroyed in one month. As diplomats and citizens alike begin to panic, Hercules makes his triumphant reappearance to calm everyone’s fears — but actually, it’s a shapeshifted Skyppi working to give everyone more time to figure out a plan. And when they finally figure out how to stop the black hole, it turns out to be something that only the real Hercules can accomplish…

Verdict: Thumbs up. This story is actually a great deal sillier than the previous issues have been, with cracks about Superman, rednecks, brawling TV pundits, Hercules’ fake Shakespearean dialogue, and more. This actually works out a lot better than I was expecting. Characterization and dialogue are probably the best things in this issue, along with the art by Ron Lim.

JSA All-Stars #9

While most of the team is fighting monsters in the Central American country of Parador, they discover an old friend/foe, Brainwave, who has been roped in by the government to mentally sedate a group of mutant children who can channel the power of Parador’s gods. And the backup story featuring Hourman and Liberty Belle finally, after months of convoluted buildup, gets interesting as we learn why Tigress and Icicle want the magical doohickey everyone’s chasing after.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I wasn’t much expecting to enjoy this one, but it ended up being a good story — nothing spectacular, but a solid piece of storytelling. I’ve mostly skipped over the backup story in the past, but the fact that we’ve finally gotten a credible motive for Icicle and Tigress does a lot to make it more readable. They should’ve done this in the first chapter or two instead of the ones nearing the end.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • A fake trailer for an Avengers movie — from the 1950s!
  • A little bitty cannon that makes a great big BOOM!
  • Scorpion performs his own theme from “Mortal Kombat” on an accordion. This is why the Internet is so wonderful.
  • I’m not sure Mike Sterling‘s new blog is actually something we really need to see more of. Isn’t it depressing enough that these people exist without calling more attention to them?

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What Light through Yonder Window Breaks?

Kill Shakespeare #4

Hamlet and Falstaff have just made a narrow escape from Richard III’s men and are now stuck riding through the forest wearing dresses — thanks to a failed scheme of Falstaff’s to disguise themselves as women. Falstaff takes Hamlet to an inn that’s a secret organizing base for the resistance, and they meet two of the resistance’s superstars — Juliet and Othello. They don’t have very much confidence in a supposed Shadow King who wears a dress, but they don’t have long to debate, as Richard’s men soon attack the inn. Othello is one heck of a fighter, but will his warrior instincts hold up when he learns that his old enemy Iago is on the scene?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m still surprised I’m enjoying this as much as I am — I did suspect that it was a one-joke concept that wouldn’t last beyond one or two issues, but I’m still very pleased with how it’s developing. I’ve heard it described as “The League of Extraordinary Shakespeare Gentlemen,” which isn’t far off the mark.

Hellboy: The Storm #2

Nimue, destroyer of Merlin, murderer of Queen Mab, corruptor of the fae, is on the march — her goal is the death of mankind and the entire planet. Her champion is a gigantic monster transformed from a lowly hedgehog, and he has enough oomph to impale Hellboy on a spear. Of course, Hellboy can’t really die anymore, and there isn’t much he can’t kill when he’s armed with Excalibur, so he and his human friend Alice continue on their way, finding a pub to rest in, while Hellboy reminisces about his boyhood in New Mexico with Professor Bruttenholm.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This story mixes ancient mythology with a giant slugfest with more personal storytelling, and it all seems to work fine. I’m loving Duncan Fegredo’s art here — it’s fun and kinetic and personable.

Baltimore: The Plague Ships #1

Well, there’s this nobleman named Lord Henry Baltimore who’s hunting vampires in a town plagued by an epidemic of, well, the plague. The vampires try to escape in an airship, but a local witch hexes it so it gets struck by lightning and explodes. Baltimore meets the witch and her beautiful daughter, who is desperate to escape from the town. Baltimore is imprisoned on suspicion of being in league with the devil, and the witch’s daughter helps him escape, in exchange for letter her travel with him.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Maybe you need to have read Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden’s “Baltimore” novel first… but that really shouldn’t be a requirement. There should be something to explain the backstory of the main character and the setting, because if you don’t have that, none of this makes much sense at all.

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Friday Night Non-Fights: Big Bang!

We’ve got another short break before our regular Friday Night Fights make their triumphant return, but there are other kinds of violence in the world, including the violence done to the fragile male ego when cruelly shot down by incognito but freakin’ awesome superheroines!

From October 2009’s Power Girl #4 by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Amanda Conner: Power Girl goes to a movie, gets macked on by (gasp!) the guys from “The Big Bang Theory” (!!!), and reacts by terrifying them with dating advice (and being alarmingly tall and gorgeous):

Wow, gotta give Howard credit for being able to maintain proper eye contact.

Quite seriously, that right there is probably my single favorite moment from the entire “Power Girl” series — and that was a comic jam-packed with awesomeness. If you haven’t read it, go hunt down the trade paperbacks, fer cryin’ out loud.

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Wild Western What-Ifs

Secret Six #24

Here’s a switch — all of the main characters of the series, including several of their villains, transplanted into the Wild West. Deadshot is a bounty hunter, Scandal Savage a sheriff, Bane is her deputy, Ragdoll runs a puppet theater, Jeannette is the local saloon’s most expensive entertainment, and Catman is a savage trapper. And Ragdoll’s vile sister Junior is the wealthiest woman in the territory, dedicated to killing everyone in town with her hired army of thugs, led by a mercenary gunfighter called Slade Wilson.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A very, very cool change of pace story. It’s great the way all of the Six’s characters fit into the Western’s archetypes. I wouldn’t mind seeing this kind of story more often, even if it’s not in the Wild West — surely these guys would fit well into lots of other genres.

Jonah Hex #58

Jonah gets in the middle of the aftermath of a whole series of crimes — the murder of a homesteader’s wife, leading to the homesteader killing the man he holds responsible, and the accidental maiming of a bystander. Jonah has been hired by the wealthy widow to bring in the homesteader, but she unexpectedly decides she won’t pay. Something fishy is going on here, and it’ll probably end with Jonah shooting more people.

Verdict: Thumbs up. An excellent and moderately complex mystery story, with an interesting framing device in which the bullets fired help narrate the action. Gotta give credit to artist Giancarlo Caracuzzo — he draws the most disgustingly disfigured Jonah Hex I think I’ve ever seen.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Here’s a Japanese manga strip explaining the strategic alliance between Japan and the U.S., in which America is depicted as a kid wearing a hoodie with bunny ears. My only regret is that it doesn’t appear to have been translated into English yet.
  • And here are some absolutely gorgeous color photographs of Depression-era America. Definitely recommended for anyone interested in old photos or just old stuff in general.
  • It’s depressing that we’ve let people like this and this wage war on Texas schools and schoolchildren for so many years. Depressing that they’ve done so much damage over the years and that their disciples will keep the war going forever.

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