Archive for May, 2011

Prom Night

Hey, it’s an all Avengers Academy day! Is that good news or bad news? Let’s find out!

Avengers Academy #13

Well, obviously, it’s time for the Avengers Academy prom. And they’re having it with the kids from the Young Allies and the Initiative, so they’ll have someone to dance with other than teammates. Speedball spins the tunes, Giant-Man and Tigra serve as chaperones — at least until they decide to bail on the dance so they can do their own horizontal mambo — Reptil finally de-ages himself to his true age, Firestar goes off on Justice when she finds out he’s sleeping with Ultra Girl, Mettle and Hazmat may try to have a real relationship together, and of course, a great big fight breaks out — or does it?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Man, this issue was just fun. Nothing too big going on, no supervillains to fight. Just fun. I need more comics in my life that are just plain fun.

Avengers Academy Giant-Size

This was originally going to be a couple of annuals, then a miniseries, and now published as a single huge 80-page comic starring Reptil, Veil, Striker, and Finesse from Avengers Academy and Spider-Girl, Firestar, and Toro from the Young Allies. Everyone gets captured by Arcade, the high-tech assassin and deathtrap creator — business hasn’t been very good for him because he keeps getting stomped on by superheroes, so he’s decided to build up his rep by killing a bunch of super-powered schoolkids. He sends Reptil and Spider-Girl out on a scavenger hunt while the rest of the teams are stuck in his Murderworld hideout.

Striker and Finesse are inside a plastic bubble in a shark-filled aquarium waiting for their air to run out; Toro is inside a giant whack-a-mole game; Veil has to climb up a bunch of electrified tubes that will vacuum her up if she turns into gas, and Firestar is trapped in a room filled with bombs trying to get a remote-control device to bring the key that will set her free. Will all the kids be able to escape from the deathtraps and turn the tables on Arcade?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A bit pricey at $8, but it’s a good, clever story, with good dialogue, action, and art, with a bunch of cool characters, so I say it’s worth it.

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Axe Crazy!

Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth #3

This may be the craziest and most awesome thing in existence. I’m not sure there’s even any way to describe it rationally. But there’s an army of intelligent talking animals, an evil version of Axe Cop’s team, so very many bizarre transformations for Dinosaur Soldier, Axe Cop’s team getting killed, revived, and then smooshed together into a composite super-monster, the eradication of every axe on Earth, and Axe Cop’s amazing and hilarious prayer to God after he’s named the President of All Presidents.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A HUNDRED BILLION THUMBS UP. This is just ridiculously awesome and insane. Ethan and Malachai Nicolle are geniuses.

Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science #5

So Jack Tarot has been captured by Thomas Edison’s robot, and Atomic Robo and Helen attempt a rescue that also ends with them captured and taken before a gloating Edison, who reveals that he plans to use a crystal skull and a great deal of his beloved direct current to make himself immortal, at the cost of killing everyone in New York and possibly the world. Is there anyone who can save the day? Maybe Robo’s creator, Nikola Tesla?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Crazy, wonderful, pulp-science fun. Great art, great dialogue, great humor, great action. Has there ever been a bad issue of Atomic Robo? If there has, please don’t tell me about it.

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Hot Spidey Sundae

The Amazing Spider-Man: Spidey Sunday Spectacular

I had no plans to pick this up, but a quick flip-through in the store basically charmed the socks off me.

What we have here is a collection of a storyarc that ran as a backup feature in Amazing Spider-Man #634-645. The gimmick was that the whole story was told in 12 two-page chapters in each issue, giving each episode the appearance of an oversized Sunday comic strip. The story was written by Stan Lee himself and illustrated beautifully by Marcos Martin.

The plotline follows two crooks called Brain (the smart one) and Bull (the dumb one). Brain has invented a machine that allows them to escape the police and flee into an issue of a Spider-Man comic. They follow Spidey, try in vain to find out his secret identity, tangle with his rogues gallery, and do their best to steal a time machine. All this is wrapped in Marcos Martin’s amazing artwork and jaw-dropping layouts.

Verdict: Such a colossal thumbs up. Marcos Martin does such outstanding artwork here. Every page has a Spidey logo worked into the scenery somewhere, which gives the whole thing an amazing “Will Eisner’s The Spirit” vibe. The layouts and artwork make the whole thing scads of fun to read through. Stan’s story is maybe a bit silly, but that helps make it perfect for any all-ages readers out there.

Secret Six #33

The team is in Hell on a quest to rescue Ragdoll, if possible, and to retrieve Scandal’s late girlfriend Knockout. Unfortunately, Ragdoll is now second-in-command in Hell and leading its armies, and Knockout is Ragdoll’s betrothed. And the Six, freshly decked out in infernal finery, is confronted with the question of whether they should fight Hell’s armies — with the danger of losing and becoming one of the legions of damned souls — or join with them to become Hell’s new royalty. Meanwhile, Catman goes looking for his father, hoping that he’s being properly punished for killing his mother and ruining his life. Can the team escape their own personal hells and return to the living world, or are their souls as damned as everyone suspects?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great story, great art, great humor and action and drama and the whole blasted shebang. DC’s best grownups-only comic, without a doubt.

Herc #2

Hercules has lost most of his powers and all of his immortality. He’s focusing his efforts on becoming a street-level hero, working at and protecting a local Greek restaurant that the Kingpin wants to buy out and shut down. Herc tangles with the Hobgoblin and eventually, after a long, drawn-out battle, beats him up. After that, he learns that the restauranteur’s daughter has been trying to get the old man to sell, and the Kingpin himself shows up to ask Herc to take out the Ares worshipers destabilizing the city.

Verdict: Man, I don’t know. The action is good, the dialogue is fine, but I kinda prefer my Hercules comics with a bit less dead-serious about ’em.

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Friday Night Fights: Plundered Pulverizin’!

Awright, kids, we got another great weekend ready to kick off, and we’re gonna kick it off the only way we know how — with FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Today’s battle comes from February 1978’s Fantastic Four #191 by Len Wein, George Perez, and Joe Sinnott, as the Thing, Mr. Fantastic, and the Human Torch take on the Plunderer and his minions.

And that’s whatcha call a room-clearing punch!

Everyone have a great weekend — see y’all on Monday!

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Saturday is Free Comic Book Day!

Free is good, and free comic books are even better. And tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day.

Lubbock’s own Star Comics is once again participating in this year’s FCBD, so you’ll want to stop in on Saturday and pick up your loot.

Now remember “free comics” doesn’t mean “all comics are free.” You can’t walk in and get all your comics for free. The publishers create their own special FCBD comics just to hand out for Free Comic Book Day, and that’s all there is to it. Showing up and demanding a free copy of Action Comics #1 is just going to make you look silly.

This year, Star is giving out prepacks — bags of comics geared different age groups — in this case, adults, teens, and all-ages readers. The free stuff only lasts while supplies last, and since the store opens at 11, you should get there pretty early, or they’ll run out.

They’ll also have balloons, stickers, friendly faces, comics you can pay for (and you should pay for some, because all those FCBD comics actually cost the shops money, so help ’em offset the cash outflow a little. Besides, comics are awesome), and Will Terrell will be on hand, too — he’ll be selling books and prints, doing free sketches when you BUY some comics, and he’ll be doing a cartooning-for-kids demonstration from 2-3 p.m.

So remember — stop by Star Comics, 2014 34th Street in Lubbock, on Saturday, starting at 11 a.m. for Free Comic Book Day!

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Masked and Anonymous

Masked, edited by Lou Anders

It’s generally been kinda hard for me to take prose superhero fiction seriously — which is kinda funny, ’cause I’ve been known to actually write some prose superhero fiction. And it’s not like I haven’t previously reviewed superhero fiction that I liked a lot. But it used to be, if you had a book with superhero prose in it, the stories were mostly going to focus on either making the heroes into inhuman serial killers in spandex or turning them into contemptible buffoons.

Superhero prose has definitely come around since comics began to be seen as a more respectable art form. This book, “Masked,” came out in 2010, edited by Lou Anders, and most of its focus is on twists on the superhero genre that still come across as (mostly) respectful of the cape-and-cowl set, with a lot of the stories written by people who are best known for writing actual comic books.

The stories include:

  • “Cleansed and Set in Gold” by Matthew Sturges, about a hero whose powers rely on a secret just as terrifying as the plague of monsters afflicting the countryside;
  • “Where Their Worm Dieth Not” by James Maxey, which focuses on the question of why superheroes and supervillains die and are reborn so often;
  • “Secret Identity” by Paul Cornell, a wonderful and very funny story about a hero whose secret identity has its own secret identity;
  • “The Non-Event” by Mike Carey, a heist-gone-wrong tale told from the POV of a low-level supercrook;
  • the absolutely outstanding “Thug” by Gail Simone, in which we get the heartbreaking life story of a superstrong but dimwitted super-lackey;
  • “Vacuum Lad” by Stephen Baxter, a sci-fi tale about a guy whose power lets him survive in outer space;
  • “A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows” by Chris Roberson, which focuses on a magic-using pulp-era hero battling demons in L.A.;
  • “Downfall” by Joseph Mallozzi, a mystery in which a reformed villain tries to find out who killed Earth’s most powerful hero;
  • “A to Z in the Ultimate Big Company Superhero Universe (and Villains Too)” by Bill Willingham, which is pretty much exactly what the title says — a complete superhero universe, wrapped around a big summer crossover and alphabetized for easy reference;
  • and plenty of other stories besides.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Any sort of anthology like this is going to have some good stories and some not-so-good stories, and I’m glad to say that most of these fall on the good side of the equation. Far and away, my favorite stories were the ones by Gail Simone, Bill Willingham, and Paul Cornell, but the majority of the stories in this book are just plain great.

My two least favorite stories were Peter David and Kathleen David’s “Head Cases,” which was basically a bunch of people with superpowers hanging out in a bar and doing nothing, and Mike Baron’s “Avatar,” which really just meandered about while a kid with martial arts skills beat up random lowlifes — and even with those two, I still found elements of the stories that I enjoyed.

Not a perfect anthology, but certainly one of the better ones of this type I’ve seen. if you’re a superhero fan, this is definitely something you’ll want to pick up.

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Destroy All Monsters!

Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #2

More giant monsters begin making their appearances on the scene, with Rodan emerging in Moscow and Anguirus in Mexico. A distraught father arms himself in an attempt to get revenge on Godzilla, the president tries to figure out how to do anything to the monsters when nuclear weapons have proven to make them stronger, and the Texas governor builds a border wall to keep out the giant illegal immigrants.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Several things I was pretty fond of — the father’s misguided quest for revenge was pretty well-done, as was the Russian psycho kid’s comeuppance when it came to Rodan. But I do wish they’d gone with something other than the standard blowhard Texas cowboy stereotype for the Texas governor — considering that the president pictured in the comic is very clearly Obama, couldn’t they have used Texas’ own blowdried nincompoop? They wouldn’t even have had to change his dialogue…

American Vampire #14

Henry Preston has joined up with a crack military squad from the vampire-hunting Vassals of the Morning Star to clear out a nest of vampires on Taipan ahead of the American invasion forces. They don’t realize that Skinner Sweet is tagging along incognito — mostly to make sure he’ll get to kill them himself. Pearl confronts Agent Hobbes about what’s going on. And the squad finds out that what’s taken over Taipan isn’t something they were prepared to deal with.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s amazing how consistently awesome this series is. Lots of good character work, and Rafael Albuquerque’s art is, as always, amazingly fun.

Batman Inc. #5

This one was a bit all over the place for me. Everyone ends up on the Falklands, Batwoman kicks Scorpiana’s butt, there’s a guy who may or may not be a Nazi super-spy, there’s a guy called the Hood who’s another British version of Batman (and he may be working against the good guys), Batman and the Gaucho make nice, and at the end, there’s a from-outta-nowhere Batman from Central Africa.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I couldn’t keep track of everything going on, and it’s pretty rare that a Grant Morrison comic does that to me.

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