Archive for January, 2011

Vamped Up

American Vampire #11

Pearl and her husband Henry have stumbled into a nest of vampires, all courtesy of Little Feet Beale, a smuggler who’s handing his old musician pals over to the vamps. Pearl makes short work of the vampires, while Henry chases after Beale. But Henry doesn’t have Pearl’s resilience. Meanwhile, Pearl’s old roommate Hattie, newly freed from captivity, begins making her way across the country in pursuit of her former friend, leaving a long trail of bodies behind her.

Verdict: Thumbs up, as always. Great action, excellent interpersonal stuff (Pearl and Henry have a nice talk about the nature of vampirism on their relationship and their future), and of course, awesome, bloodthirsty vampires who never, ever sparkle.

Detective Comics #873

Dick Grayson’s disguise as William Rhodes, a wealthy, debauched tycoon slumming it among psychotics, has been pierced by Etienne Guiborg, the gas-masked loon behind the Mirror House. Though dosed with a hallucinogen, Dick manages to escape, but can he throw off the effects of the poison to bring Guiborg to justice? And as long as he’s suffering periodic hallucinations, can he trust anything he sees?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Some fun surprises, some excellently well-done hallucinations, and a nice examination of just how crazy a large chunk of the Gotham population may be…

Hey, I just realized I reviewed two of writer Scott Snyder’s comics today. Yay for semi-random synchronicity!

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Friday Night Fights: Mail Call!

Awright, people, line up! We’ve all had a rough week, and we’re all aching for the weekend to get started. I assume you’re all going to get busy with your usual weekend plans — eating club crackers, painting the doghouse, shaving various body parts, and re-organizing your silverware drawer. Well, forget it! You are going to live this weekend like you’re not going to get another one for five whole days, and that’s all there is to it! And the right way to start off a good, crazy weekend? Say it with me now — FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

We’re going to make sure tonight’s battle is one for the ages — we’re going with a true comic classic: February 1963’s Fantastic Four #11 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby! It all starts quietly as the FF are going through their fan mail…

Waitaminute — no return address? No, Ben, don’t open it — it’s from your greatest archnemeses…

Yep, the Yancy Street Gang strikes again!

See you guys back here on Monday — hope you get rested and refreshed before then…

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Twilight’s Zone

Twilight Guardian #1

You remember a long, loooong time ago, when the one-shot “Pilot Season” version of this comic came out? I loved the first story and had started getting worried that this one would never get published. But it’s finally out, and I’m plenty glad to see it.

The storyline here is pretty much just like the original. The Twilight Guardian is a young woman in a hoodie and a domino mask. She patrols a nine-block area in the suburbs, and she’s fanatically dedicated to being a superhero. Even though she has no powers and no fighting skills. Even though she nearly never encounters any crime. Even though she’s so painfully afraid of confrontation that she can never bring herself to even confront anyone she thinks is suspicious.

Yes, she’s broken somewhere, mentally. She’s stopped taking her meds because she thinks they dull her crimefighting skills. She’s obsessed with her nemesis, a serial abductor who the papers call the Dusk Devil and who she’s never even met. Her ex-boyfriend has just vanished, perhaps conveniently. Do the police think she has something to do with it? Was her father’s disappearance years ago more ominous than anyone suspected? Has someone entered her home while she was out on patrol? Is the Dusk Devil really after her? And does the Twilight Guardian have allies she doesn’t expect?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Listen, if you get this looking for fights and action and Kirby dots, you’re going to be really disappointed. This is all about character. At least it is so far. I don’t know if something’s going to happen later or not — I suspect it will, but even if all we get is a deep character study of a young woman with mental issues who wishes she was a superhero, I’m probably going to end up counting the whole miniseries as a win.

And having said all that — I do think there’s something deeper going on here. There are strange, suspicious things that seem to be happening. Are they all in the Guardian’s fevered and paranoid imagination? Is the description of the Dusk Devil as someone wearing a hood and a mask — just like our heroine — dangerously significant?

I love this character, I’m glad Troy Hickman is getting another chance to write about her, and I’m relieved that Top Cow is taking a chance with it. I’m hoping you’ll take a chance on it, too.

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The Triumphant Return of the Lubbock Comic Book Expo

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, fanboys and fangirls of all ages, the Lubbock Comic Book Expo is all set to go for another year.

When’s it happening? April 9-10, during the annual Lubbock Arts Festival. Where? That’d be at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center, at 1501 Mac Davis Lane.

Who’s going to be there? Well, probably lots and lots of people, but I don’t know who yet. Hopefully, you’ll be there, ’cause you’d like it, I promise.

As in previous years, the emphasis for the Comic Expo is on the artists who make up the Lubbock comic art community, including the Lubbock Sketch Club. Sure, there’ll be a lot of stuff there for comics fans, but there’s going to be a lot to throw the focus on the people who are working on their comics art skills.

Kenny Ketner is in charge of everything this year, and it’s still pretty early, but he tells me he’s working on a lot of stuff to make sure the convention goes off well.

Events? Probably quite a few. Expect a variety of speakers, the sketch area for the kids (and for parents willing to draw fun stuff), the Iron Artist event, the always-popular costume contest, and a lot more. The theme for this year’s Arts Festival is “Colorful Crayola Art,” so I’d bet on some events having to do with Crayolas and crayons.

Admission fees? Don’t hold me to this, ’cause it’s the only thing I forgot to ask Kenny about — but if it’s like previous Expos, you’ll have to pay to get into the Arts Festival (This year, it’s just three dollars, and that’s cheap, baby), but if the only thing you’re attending is the Expo, it’ll be completely free. And yes, that’s completely within your budget, so don’t try to waffle out of it.

Some of y’all out there may want to get yourself a table at the Expo, either as a vendor or an exhibitor. I can actually help you with that! You just need to fill out these PDF forms for vendor applications and exhibitor applications, and send Kenny your fees. Mmm, sweet, sweet moneys. Hopefully, Kenny’s gonna buy us all shiny new ridin’ goats.

What else to tell? The folks at the Hub City’s Robot Cowboy Studios are working on a new logo. I reckon it won’t be too long before you’ll be seeing it on posters around the city. But it ain’t ready yet, so keep yer pants on, pilgrim. The PDF forms for vendors and exhibitors are mostly almost nearly ready — the current versions are a little too large for me to upload to the site here, but I’m hoping for some more manageable versions soon.

Have you got that penciled on your calendar yet? It’s the Lubbock Comic Book Expo — April 9-10 at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center, 1501 Mac Davis Lane, during the Lubbock Arts Festival.

There has never been a Comic Book Expo that hasn’t been pure 1000% ham-stuffed awesomesauce. Don’t miss it, or you’re a sucka.

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Roll for Damage

Dungeons & Dragons #3

The party of adventurers — Kahl the dwarf paladin, Varis the city-loving elf, Bree the thieving halfling, Tisha the possibly-demonic tiefling, and their leader, Adric Fell — are in a heap of trouble. They’re surrounded by orcs, hunting for a shapeshifting villain, and Adric is in a duel to the death with an orc warrior. Can Adric keep from getting killed? Can the rest of the party discover the shapeshifter? What secret was the shapeshifter hiding, and will everyone be able to survive a trip through a trap-filled cavern?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent action and characterization. The artwork is a blast. The turning point in the duel was a nice surprise, and the reactions of the onlookers was pretty funny. All in all, I’m just really enjoying this comic.

Supergirl #60

We have three different stories in this one — first, we meet a tech-savvy (and possibly telepathic) sociopath who’s created a new telephone app to let people track sightings of superheroes — and to make it easier for supervillains to find the heroes. Second, Lois Lane has found out some dirt about secret Cadmus experiments. And finally, Supergirl gets ambushed by a bunch of heavy hitters from Superman’s rogues gallery. How are these all connected?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice mix of stories, and all of them would be pretty interesting on their own. Good action, dialogue, and characterization, especially considering how many characters, both major and minor, there are in this story.

Tiny Titans #36

Terra takes Kid Devil and Hotspot on a field trip to the center of the earth, where everyone is able to make their heads burst into flames. And Beast Boy tags along, just ’cause he likes Terra. They all meet dragons, dinosaurs, man-eating plants, a cow, and this guy:

Yay! The Tiny Titans version of Etrigan the Demon!

Verdict: Thumbs up. Tiny Titans Etrigan!

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Friday Night Fights: Gang Green!

Awright, I slacked off last week, but it’s time to pull out some scans from some actually decent fights for a change. So let’s kick out the jams and jump right into tonight’s edition of… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

This evening’s battle looks like it might’ve been better suited to Halloween… but I don’t want to wait another nine months to use this, so it’s getting used right now. From December 2008’s Monster-Size Hulk #1, from a story by Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman — Victoria Frankenstein, the granddaughter of, well, Frankenstein, has used a gamma-powered blood transfusion to revive the legendary Monster of Frankenstein!

I hear hitting each other with tractors is the traditional way to celebrate Fridays in Transylvania.

Everyone have a great weekend, and I’ll see y’all back here on Monday.

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School’s Out

Avengers Academy #8

Okay, backstory — a while back — I think during “Civil War” or one of the other idiotic Marvel crossovers — some supervillain called the Hood ambushed Tigra, beat her up, and videotaped her so he could blackmail her into — I don’t remember. It was stupid and pointless — one of the things Brian Michael Bendis does so he’ll make his fanboys think he’s gangsta. Anyway, Tigra is now teaching at Avengers Academy, and the students have just discovered that the video has finally been released on the Internet. Tigra’s not happy about it, but she and Giant-Man shut the kids down when they suggest going after the Hood for revenge — the Academy is about getting them to play by the rules, not slip into supervillain thinking.

But of course, some of the students — specifically, Striker, Hazmat, and Veil — decide to track down the Hood (he’s escaped from prison but lost his powers), beat him up, and make their own tape. Meanwhile, Tigra is trying to deal with the residual effects of the trauma by creating her own foundation to assist anyone who’s undergone that kind of ordeal — from abused children and spouses all the way to suicidal vets. But how’s she going to react when she learns that the students have gone outside the law?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice to see that Christos Gage and other people at Marvel are willing to figure out ways to fix Bendis’ screwups. Good character work here, too, especially for Tigra. And an excellent cliffhanger to close everything out. No idea how they wrap this up without just resorting to the old reset button

Morning Glories #6

A new storyarc begins — and for most of this issue, we don’t really see any familiar faces. Our focus is on Julie Hayes, a researcher with connections to the mysterious rotating dynamo seen in the Morning Glory Academy’s basement. She’s on the run from the law because she made a mistake that cost 12 people their lives. She meets a member of the Academy’s staff who offers her a deal — come work for the Academy doing stuff that’s probably illegal, and the Academy will make her legal troubles go away. Will she take them up on the offer? And will the surprise on the last page make your jaw hit the floor, or drop all the way through to the basement?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I was considering giving this one up. But that last page definitely roped me in for the next storyarc.

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Hell Comes to Texas

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – Gods #1

A new storyline and a setting shift — we’re following a group of refugees fleeing Texas. Recent events, particularly a volcano erupting in Houston and a vast array of monsters appearing throughout the state, have freaked out a lot of people, and even folks trying to get out of the state for their own safety are distrusted and abused by people who should be helping them. One large group of refugees is being led by a 16-year-old girl named Fenix. She has some sort of unspecified illness but is blessed with uncannily accurate predictive abilities and very strong leadership skills. She nixes a newcomers recommendation that they hole up in an abandoned high school football stadium and has the group stay at an empty swimming pool instead. So what did Fenix think was going to show up at the stadium?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Previous BPRD books have shortchanged the chaos the world is going through, but this does a lot to bring home how it’s affecting people. Fenix seems like a cool character, too. My initial quibble was that people wouldn’t be so hostile to refugees trying to escape from a place that lots of people describe as — literally — Hell… but then again, history is full of stories of abused and rejected refugees. Even as recently as Katrina, there were people who tried to keep refugees from fleeing New Orleans…

Knight and Squire #4

Beryl has a date with the Shrike, a fledgling superhero who she and the Knight met in the first issue of this series. She brings him to the Knight’s castle to meet Cyril. But all does not go well. The Shrike doesn’t react well to Beryl figuring out his secret identity, and Beryl doesn’t react well to his negative reaction. And the Knight’s armor has developed a mind of its own, based on his old addictions and insecurities. Can the heroes stop the rogue armor and regain their trust in each other?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of stuff to love here. I enjoyed getting a little background on the Knight’s lost years when he was an alcoholic. Meeting Cyril’s butler was nice, too — rather than being an upper-crust Brit like Bruce Wayne’s Alfred Pennyworth, the Knight’s butler is a drawling American with a proper bolo tie named Hank Hackenbacker. However, I do wish we’d get some more information about Beryl’s “communications abilities.” Are they actual superpowers or just an unusually high skill level or what? Maybe I haven’t been paying close enough attention, but they seem a bit undefined…

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Batgirls and Batboys

Batgirl #17

Yay! A teamup with Stephanie Brown, the former Spoiler and current Batgirl, with Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne’s son and the current borderline-psychotic Robin! This is good because these two are extremely funny together, especially when being written by Bryan Q. Miller. Batgirl and Robin are both on the trail of some child kidnappers, and the case leads straight to a group of kids on a field trip to a local museum. The heroes can’t see what’s going on inside the museum dressed as superheroes, so Batgirl has the idea to send Damian in, dressed like a normal kid, and then sits back to enjoy the spectacle of Damian having no idea how to relate to kids his own age. Can Batgirl and Robin survive the kidnappers and each other?

Verdict: An enthusiastic thumbs up. The character interaction here is simply fantastic. Stephanie and Damian make a really fun team, thanks to their wildly different personalities and crimefighting styles. Miller gives us a bunch of great moments — Damian pestering Alfred, Steph waking up late for class, Damian trying to blend in with schoolkids and trying (and mostly failing) to drive a school bus, and Steph getting more than her usual share of one-liners and zingers. Have I told y’all before to make sure you’re reading this? No? Well, make sure you’re reading this.

Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes #10

So we’ve known that there’s an impostor inside the Avengers for the past few issues, but who is it? Well, it’s the Black Widow — specifically, the Black Widow from a few years in our future, who was brought in by Reed Richards, whose research into time travel revealed that the Invisible Woman had been fated to die at the hands of any number of supervillains. That fate had been averted, at least temporarily, when Sue joined the Avengers, but Reed wanted to make sure she stayed on the team, so he hired the future Widow to replace the current one and work to convince Sue to stay on the team. Now the Avengers know that Reed was behind the replacement, but they don’t know why, and they’re attacking the Baxter Building to try to get Reed to explain. Can Sue and the rest of the Avengers get into the Baxter Building? Can Reed hold them off long enough for the new Sue-doesn’t-die timeline to trump the old one?

Verdict: Thumbs down. I was the most bummed by the ending, which just comes out and says no one will remember any of this. It basically eliminates at least six months’ worth of stories from everyone’s memories. Just seems a little extreme and irritating, to be honest.

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Friday Night Fights: Feh.

Man, what a week. What a lousy, painful, dull week of drudgery. I’m not sure much of anything good came out of it. It even bled over into my preparations for Friday Night Fights — I just couldn’t find anything I was real interested in fixing up. So when the week is long and painful, when you know your Friday Night Fights entry has no shot at winning the weekly title, sometimes there’s just nothing you can do but embrace the mediocrity.

So here we go: From the August 2, 2009 edition of Blondie by Dean Young and John Marshall, here’s Dagwood Bumstead doing the same old boring thing.

Okay, that’s quite enough of that. Have a good weekend. I’m going to sleep.

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