Archive for November, 2010

A Dose of Awesome: Sharks!

Awesome things? You want awesome things? Well, how ’bout…








SHAAA — Okay, maybe there are limits to what awesomeness can accomplish…

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Holiday Gift Bag: Parker!

Well, what’ve we got here? Looks like it’s the biggest shopping day of the year, and you can look forward to fighting your way through a few thousand people at the malls and the discount stores, wearing the soles off your shoes walking through jam-packed parking lots, and hitting your fellow shoppers with purses and warhammers and car fenders and walruses and whatnot!

“Oh, help me!” I hear you cry. “Help me, Comic Book Blogger Guy! Help me find the perfect gift for family! Also, where did I park my car?”

Well, sounds to me like it’s time to kick off this year’s “Holiday Gift Bag” series — over the next few weeks, I’m going to offer you some ideas and recommendations for holiday gifts you can give the comics fan in your life. So if you’re tired of getting crushed and pushed around at the mall, head on over to your friendly neighborhood comic shop instead!

We’re going to start out with Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit, adapted and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke.

You may remember I’ve already reviewed the first volume of this series, “Parker: The Hunter,” and even reviewed the pre-release preview, “The Man with the Getaway Face.” Well, this is finally the second book in Cooke’s “Parker” series, and it’s heckuva good.

To sum things up, this is superstar artist Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of the “Parker” hardboiled crime novels by Donald Westlake (writing as Richard Stark). Our lead character is a guy named Parker, who is a criminal who specializes in pulling heists. He’s a mostly unsympathetic guy — cold, grim, unsmiling, merciless. He doesn’t like to kill people, but he’ll do it if he has to, and he won’t even feel bad about it.

After getting plastic surgery to disguise his appearance, Parker’s living the easy life, but a disgruntled associate has clued the Mob in on where to find him. After taking care of that loose end, Parker ain’t happy about it. He’s tired of the Mob breathing down his neck, and he wants to do two things — take out the syndicate leader who’s got it in for him, and hurt the Mob in their pocketbook so they’ll know to lay off him. So after telling a bunch of his heist-artist pals that they should start robbing some Mob-owned businesses, he sets his sights on Bronson, the head of the East Coast syndicate.

This book is just a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Ain’t nothing like the thrill of opening a book and finding that it’s all put together with black ink and blue ink on creamy off-white paper. You won’t have to hide this in your back office with all the ratty comic TPBs — this needs to go in the bookshelf at the front of the house, with all the fancy books you want to use to impress people.

If you love hard-boiled crime fiction, this was made for you. Parker’s a hard, mean customer, and I’d guesstimate there are eight different heists pulled off in just 150 pages. That’s a lot of crime, boyo. I also loved the great mix of characters — besides Parker, you’ve got charismatic jokester Grofeld, doomed weasel Skim, Monopoly-hating crime boss Bronson, cheery hooker-turned-motel-owner Madge, thrill-seeking Bett Harlow, and bunches more, some never named. This is good stuff all the way through.

If you’re familiar with Cooke’s art, you know you’re getting good stuff — a lot of influence from the more noir-based Warner Bros. animation, with his own unique twists on the formula. Lots and lots of period detail for the ’60s. Cooke loves the ’50s and ’60s, and he loves period details both small and large. You’ll come out of this feeling like you just read a comic created in the ’60s.

Possibly the coolest part of this book is the section where we learn about all the independent crooks who’ve started knocking over Mob operations — each heist is told in a different format. The first with a pure text tale seemingly ripped out of a sleazy true-crime magazine, another in a simple gag-cartoon style, another looking like it came straight out of an economics text book. It gives Cooke lots of opportunities to show off his artistic and cartooning chops, and it’s way entertaining for the reader besides.

“Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit” by Richard Stark and Darwyn Cooke. It’s just 25 bucks. Go pick it up.

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Thanks Forgiving

Another Thanksgiving’s come ’round. I hope you’re able to spend it with your family and/or friends, and that you’re well-fed and happy. If not — I do hope that next year is better for you, and better for us all.

And for those of us enjoying the good life, I also hope that you’ll keep in mind those who are struggling through rough times. More and more these days, we seem to be turning ourselves into a less empathetic people, who think the poor deserve their sorrows, that showing compassion is a form of weakness, that cruelty is good for ratings and great for business. It shouldn’t be that way, and I really wish someone would tell the Lubbock City Council that.

Alright, fine, let’s have some Thanksgiving comic covers.

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving, hope you enjoy a nice slab of turkey, watch some football, and do some proper visiting with your family and friends.

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Super Smash Sisters

Supergirl #58

Cat Grant suspects there’s a connection between Supergirl and Lana Lang, so she blackmails them into having Supergirl accompany her to visit Winslow Schott, the Toyman, in Arkham Asylum. They suspect him of kidnapping children in Metropolis and sending robot dolls to Cat. But when one of the dolls reactivates and tries to kill Schott, they have to re-evaluate their suspicions about his involvement. Cat’s vehement dislike for Supergirl drives Kara back to Metropolis, where she carries out her own investigation by beating up on bad guys. Cat, meanwhile, runs into some more murderous dolls — this time definitely free of Winslow’s influence.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Could I just say how much more I’m enjoying this non-pop-tart version of Supergirl? So much more personable and non-dorky and interesting than the one from just a few years ago. If they can get her into a new costume that doesn’t involve a belly shirt, the transformation into an awesome character will be complete…

Zatanna #7

Zatanna is visiting Hollywood to pay a visit to a woman who’s putting together a museum of magic, featuring costumes and artifacts from dozens of different DC spellcasters, including Dr. Fate, Ibis the Invincible, Baron Winter, Manitou Raven, Sargon the Sorcerer, and even Zatanna’s father, John Zatara. Unfortunately, all those costume pieces contain tiny fragments of the psyches and magical powers of all their previous owners, and Sargon’s turban is able to take command of the other articles of clothing in the museum, taking them on a magical rampage through Los Angeles. Can Zatanna figure out a way to shut down the spectral sartorial sorcerer?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice done-in-one story with a good emotional core at the center of everything. I love the way so many of these Zatanna stories revolve around either stage magic or Zee’s relationship to her father. You’d think it’d get tiring, but it’s still working pretty well.

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Hell is for Heroes

Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil

We get a couple cool Hellboy stories here, written by Mike Mignola, illustrated by Richard Corben, and framed as a couple of late movies at the most run-down theater in the universe.

In the first one, Hellboy is called in to investigate a man named Sullivan who claims his home is forcing him to kill — he tricks someone into entering a specific room in the house, the door slams, screams ensue, and a few gold coins bounce down the staircase in payment. When Hellboy enters the room himself, will he be able to combat the evil both inside and out? The second story focuses on a lunatic who thinks he’s a reincarnated priest of the Egyptian god Horus who raises a bunch of mummies to fight Hellboy and kidnap a woman he loves. But when the pressure’s on, what happens to an Egyptian priest who prays to the wrong god?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I love all these collaborations between Mignola and Corben — they really play to each other’s strengths in these stories. I don’t think I could pick which of these was my favorite story — both are great examples of the best in horror comics. Corben’s art really should be savored — every panel is beautiful.

Morning Glories #4

Casey is working on a plan to rescue Jade from the psychotics running the academy and is trying to recruit some of her fellow classmates to assist her. The only one who flat refuses is Jun, who has his own suspicions of how dangerous the school is. The other three agree to help and meet in the basement to make Casey’s homebrew recipe for tear gas. But of course, no plan goes off without a hitch, especially in a place as surveillance-heavy as the Morning Glory Academy.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great intrigue all around, ever deepening mysteries, ever greater dangers. Excellent dialogue, even if it sometimes does run on for too long. They say the next issue will be the end of the first storyarc, and I’m very keen to see how they’re going to wrap this up.

Tiny Titans #34

Everyone thinks Superboy and Zatara look exactly alike. They don’t see the resemblance, but sure enough, when Raven magically switches their costumes, the mistaken identity cases get even more extreme. Supergirl takes Zatara off for a flight even though he can’t fly, and Cassie, Starfire, Barbara, and Bumblebee drag Superboy along to get him to create party favors for their tea party. All that plus Robin spends the whole issue eating breakfast, Jor-El shows off his observational skills, Plasmus gets a tuxedo, and everyone gets their own Kid Flash costume.

Verdict: Thumbs up. As always, lots and lots of funny stuff. I only wish we’d seen more of the cast in this issue — these stories seem to hit their highest points when more of the Titans get to participate in the madness.

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Friday Night Fights: Clobberin’ Time!

Friends and neighbors, we’re at the end of the latest cycle of Friday Night Fights. What’ve we had in the last 12 weeks? Well, we’ve gotten to spotlight battles from Lovecraftian Killer Croc, alternate-future Green Arrow and the Atom, Tabitha Smith and Aaron Stack, Thor (and the winner of that week’s all-blogs contest), Nick Fury, Bruce Wayne, Captain America (another win for me!), another from Cap plus Iron Man, Spider Jerusalem, Brickhouse, Hellboy (another winner!), and Captain Marvel!

So tonight, we’ve got the prize round — I get to post another fight, you get to head over to SpaceBooger’s place (hmm, probably sometime around 9 or 10 tonight), look over the other entrants, and cast your vote for which one of us brought the best battle. Y’all ready?

My entry tonight is from all the way back in September 1973, with Marvel Feature #11 by Len Wein, Jim Starlin, and Joe Sinnott. There are some great comic book matchups all through comic history, but there are few that are as consistently awesome as the brawls between that blue-eyed idol of millions, the Thing, and ol’ Jade Jaws, the Hulk!

Awright, there you got it. Don’t forget, pay SpaceBooger a visit later tonight or this weekend and pick your favorite battles!

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The Business of the Bat

Batman Inc. #1

Batman and Catwoman travel to Japan — Bruce Wayne is in the process of creating a global network of crimefighters called, of course, Batman Incorporated, and he wants to recruit a Japanese hero named Mr. Unknown. Unfortunately, Mr. Unknown has just been tortured and murdered by someone calling himself Lord Death Man. Mr. Unknown’s sidekick, however, got away and is on the run. When Lord Death Man kidnaps the sidekick’s girlfriend, can he, Batman, and Catwoman stop the unkillable villain and save the girl?

Verdict: Thumbs up. So much good stuff in this. Yanick Paquette’s artwork is fantastically gorgeous, with excellent action, expressions, and settings, not to mention his great cheesecake shots of Catwoman. Morrison’s writing is, as always, great fun. He rescues another obscure Bat-villain from the dustheap and pulls off some excellent sight gags — check out the second panel after Batman and Catwoman enter the comic shop, then go look at the last page.

Green Lantern #59

The Indigo Tribe finally returns to Earth, bringing along a seemingly reformed Black Hand, as they look for an appropriate host for Proselyte, the Indigo entity. Meanwhile, Hal Jordan is getting chewed out by the Flash, who’s upset that Hal has been sneaking around and hanging out with unsavory characters like Sinestro and Atrocitus, and that the Hope entity, Adara, has chosen a kidnapped Earth girl as its new host. Soon there’s a confrontation between Hal, Saint Walker, Larfleeze, and Flash against the Indigo Tribe, who don’t take kindly to having their motives questioned. And after that, Parallax shows back up, and he wants a new host, too.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wonderful art by Doug Mahnke, as always. Lots of new surprises. An outstanding cliffhanger. And Larfleeze steals the Flash’s wallet.

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Blood on the Tracks

American Vampire #8

Pearl Jones and her beau Henry get a visit from Abilena Book and Linden Hobbes, representatives from a vampire-hunting organization called the Vassals of the Morning Star. And they want Pearl to tell them how to kill her and Skinner Sweet, in exchange for a promise not to come after her right away. Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Chief McCogan is skeptical about Agents Straw and Book’s claims about vampires, but he’s becoming more convinced as more bizarre deaths pile up. But is he prepared for the true identity of the murderer?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great storytelling and art — I’m loving the way Rafael Albuquerque draws his monsters. The western setting really does help the stories feel more unique and interesting than some other vampire stories out there…

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – New World #4

Things are still going good and crazy. The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense is short-staffed in the wake of the Houston volcano, Johann Kraus is shirking his duties to be close to the artificially-grown humanoid he wants to inhabit, and Panya is slowly taking over the entire facility. Meanwhile, Abe Sapien and Ben Daimio meet a guy who’s trying to find his wife — he got back from the war soon after his wife had their baby, wouldn’t let him see the kid, and finally knocked him on the head and disappeared. Sure enough, he’s found out the baby’s really dead — so what was his wife cradling around the house? And what’s her connection to the giant monster that keeps following Abe and Ben around? To make things even worse, the long-missing wendigo shows up, and Ben is getting set to go were-jaguar on everyone.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of chaos, lots of cool artwork, lots of excellent action and creepiness. And a pretty good cliffhanger, too — looking forward to seeing how this all plays out next issue…

The Unwritten #19

Tom Taylor, Richie Savoy, and Lizzie Hexam have traveled to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, hometown of “Moby-Dick” author Herman Melville, on a semi-magical hunch that this was where they needed to be. While they explore Arrowhead, Melville’s former home-turned-museum, Pullman the assassin visits a toymaker named Rausch, an elderly woman who’s a high-end sorceress of some kind. Pullman wants her to ally herself with the Cabal, but she’s reluctant — unless Pullman has something important he can bargain with. All that, plus Savoy gets sick — but he has no idea how sick he really is.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A more relaxed pace to this story, which is a relief after how furiously previous issues have run. Good dialogue all over the place, too. A lot of mysteries moving forward, which is a nice benefit. And I really enjoyed all the stuff in Pittsfield — no idea how accurate our glimpse of Arrowhead and the town are, but they’ve got some nice touches.

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Dungeon Masters

Dungeons & Dragons #1

I had no expectation that I was going to get this title ’til I found out that John Rogers — better known as the guy responsible for some of the best “Blue Beetle” stories — was the writer. I’m more than willing to take a few chances on him.

Our main characters are a party of adventurers — Adric Fell, a human warrior and the leader of the group; Kahl, a dwarf paladin; Varis, an elf sharpshooter; Bree, a magnificently untrustworthy halfling thief; and Tisha, a tiefling spellcaster. They live in a small town called Fallcrest at the edge of the wilderness. Things start off — of course! — at the local tavern, where the group is soon under attack by a bunch of rampaging zombies. Only they’re not zombies, they are humans under some sort of spell — a spell that inconveniently wears off just in time for the local watch to arrest them all for murder. A gnome wizard named Copernicus Jinx soon shows up to assist them, revealing that someone has opened a magical portal which is infecting the countryside with dark energies that make everyone act like zombies. And right on cue, almost everyone in town except for our heroes get infected and start lurching after the good guys. Can the party locate the source of the problem? Can they save any innocent people along the way?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This may be the first non-game adaptation of “Dungeons & Dragons” to not suck. There’s a grand and glorious amount of good humor on display, as well as excellent action, characterization, and dialogue. Reading this made me want to play D&D again — and I haven’t been tempted to do that in decades.

Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science #1

Man, I haven’t been able to get any of these in ages — Robo is a really fun character, but he’s not carried by nearly enough comic shops. Luckily, I was able to get in at the beginning of a new storyarc for this one.

It’s 1930, and Atomic Robo is still in his relative infancy — he’s still working as a drudge for his creator Nikola Tesla, stuck doing boring chores instead of reading pulp magazines and having adventures, like he’d really prefer. Luckily, he runs into a masked crimefighter named Jack Tarot battling some gangsters and proceeds to make a nuisance of himself by asking Tarot and the gangsters as many irritating questions as he can. Can Robo get in good with the crimefighting set? And where will this adventure all lead to?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This isn’t the cynical Robo we may have gotten used to — he’s a more innocent and enthusiastic character here. Excellent humor, great action, very fun dialogue.

Knight and Squire #2

Our two Brit heroes get wind of a looming occult plot about to be enacted, so they rush in their civilian disguises to a small town and visit an unusually paranoid pub called The Wicker Man — only to discover that the whole town has been taken over by… the Morris Men! (Apparently, it’s a criminal gang that dresses up like Morris dancers — and I’ll have to ask you to read the Wikipedia article about that, ’cause it’s about folk dancing, and there ain’t no way I’m gonna try to explain folk dancing) When it all turns out to be a plot to force Britain back to a distant past, will the heroes manage to foil the Morris Men before the dance is over?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s daft in all the best ways. Excellent action, superb dialogue. I think I most enjoyed seeing how Beryl spends her not-fighting-crime days. Don’t miss writer Paul Cornell’s postscript — it explains a lot of the Britishisms in the story, but it looks a bit like an ad, so you may need to keep an eye out for it.

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Pussycat Dolls

Tiny Titans/Little Archie #2

It’s time for another meeting of the Tiny Titans’ Pet Club, and Josie and the Pussycats have been invited to bring her pets — but of course, the Pussycats aren’t cats, they’re a rock band! Soon, they’ve got the rest of the Riverdale kids thinking the Pet Club is a big costume party — all while an old Archie bad guy called the Mad Doctor Doom (Ring, ring! Marvel’s lawyers calling!) and his pompadoured sidekick Chester plot against our pint-sized heroes. Once everyone gets to the Titans’ treehouse, Moose shows up with his pet moose, Moose, followed by Archie dressed as Pureheart the Powerful, Jughead as Captain Hero, Betty as Super Betty, Veronica as Superonica, and Reggie as Evil Heart. All that, plus we finally get to meet Jughead’s dog Hot Dog, and we get detailed instructions on how to dance the Batusi.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I believe we’ve established by now that I love everything about this comic book, yes? Well, I loved the stuffing out of this one, too. Excellent humor and art, and just all-around fun.

Marvel Super Hero Squad #11

Tigra, She-Hulk, and the Wasp decide it’s time they finally started getting some credit for their superheroic deeds, so they set out to get themselves inducted into the Super Hero Squad. They soon find themselves up against a bunch of toad aliens who’ve kidnapped the entire Super Hero Squad. Wasp works to shut down the ship while Shulkie beats up the toad champion — but can the heroines rescue the Squad, keep the ship from crashing in the city, and get their big promotion? Meanwhile, in the followup story, the Squad members re-enact “The Magnificent Seven,” with Thor delivering all his lines in a combination of Wild West drawl and Asgardian thee’s and thou’s (“Huzzah! Pointeth me towards them varmints!”), the Falcon delighted that he’s going to get to be James Coburn, and the Silver Surfer doing a great impersonation of Robert Vaughn.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Both stories were a lot of fun. I loved Falcon’s genre awareness in the Western story, and almost everything Thor said was good for a laugh.

Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes #8

Nova has traveled to Asgard with Thor, where they discover that Odin is an impostor! They team up with Valkyrie and travel to visit the Norns, a trio of fortune-telling witches, who reveal that Odin is held captive by the trolls. Will Nova be able to hold his own in the land of the gods? And what kind of trouble is brewing back home in New York?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nova is so completely and amusingly over his head in Asgard, completely awed by everything, and it’s fun to see him win the respect of Valkyrie. The day-in-the-life antics back in NYC are fun, too, and the cliffhanger is first-rate. Definitely looking forward to the next issue…

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