Archive for October, 2011

Night of the Demon

Demon Knights #2

The village of Little Spring is under attack by dragons controlled by Mordru, but Etrigan and his new kinda-sorta team aren’t having too much trouble with them. Vandal Savage, in fact, is entirely delighted — he hasn’t gotten to eat a dragon in centuries, and he’s looking forward to dinner. We get introduced to a new character, the Horsewoman. The village prepares to evacuate before Mordru and the Questing Queen can attack again, but they’re far too late to stop yet another attack by more and stronger dragons.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The character work here is what’s really selling me on the series. Right now, there’s not a lot of plot, other than arguing and chopping up dragons. But the characterizations are pretty solid. And it looks like Vandal Savage and Shining Knight may be the breakout characters of the series.

The Unwritten #30

Tom Taylor meets his half-brother Milton while the old man is on his deathbed — but he gets a nasty surprise when someone else emerges from Milton’s body — the fictional Golden Age superhero the Tinker! The Tinker thinks Tom is his father, and the Tinker isn’t a big fan of Wilson Taylor. The Tinker is about to kill Tom when Frankenstein’s Monster and Tom’s winged cat Mingus intervene to help calm him down. But the Tinker is getting older as Milton gets closer to death — how long will he last, what can Frankenstein’s Monster do to help Tom and his friends, and what’s going to be the fallout from the worldwide murder spree the Cabal is engaged in?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art, dialogue, and an ending to the Tinker storyarc that’s equal parts exciting and bittersweet.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Bats and Bones

Batwoman #2

Batwoman and her new sidekick, Bette Kane, take out a bunch of thugs while discussing the fact that Batwoman has been invited to join Batman, Inc. Meanwhile, DEO agent Cameron Chase visits Gotham to warn Maggie Sawyer that she believes she’s actually Batwoman. Kate Kane has a date with Maggie, plus there are more investigations into the mysterious child abductor.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Without a single doubt, this is the best-looking, most amazingly beautiful comic being published today.

Batgirl #2

Batgirl pursues the new villain Mirror, who is obsessed with killing people who he believes have unfairly gotten a second chance at life. They have a thoroughly brutal fight across the city before she loses him in the cemetery. After a stern talking-to from her new roommate, Barbara goes on a date with her therapist, does some research on Mirror’s background, then tracks him to his secret lair and learns he plans to blow up a subway car just to get a single one of his victims.

Verdict: Ehh, I dunno. I like the writing, I like the art — but not only is Mirror a really low-quality supervillain, it becomes more and more clear as we’re reading this that Batgirl is not actually a very good superhero either. It’s not just that she screws up a lot, but she also doesn’t seem to be up to the job, either physically or emotionally. If she’s having difficulty with a schmuck like Mirror, how’s she going to handle Killer Croc or Clayface or the Joker? She needs to be back working a computer, not trying to be an action hero.

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Friday Night Fights: Headbutt Power!

Let’s jump right into it — tonight’s edition of Friday Night Fights comes to us from October 2009’s Power Girl #4 by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Amanda Conner, as Power Girl tangles with a giant lizard!

There we go — see y’all again on Monday!

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The Freedom to Speak

Liberty Annual 2011

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund puts one of these benefit comics out once a year to raise a little dough and to promote the good work that they do on behalf of comics creators and the First Amendment.

This year’s annual includes some really grand stories from great names like Matt Wagner, Dave Stewart, J.H. Williams III, Steve Niles, Carla Speed McNeil, Fred Hembeck, J. Michael Straczynski, Richard Starkings, Mark Waid, Jeff Lemire, Kazim Ali, Dara Naraghi, and many, many more. They focus on topics ranging from book and art censorship, homosexuality, separation of church and state, Islam, and nekkid people. There are a bunch of pinups, too — most of them are completely forgettable, except for the one done by Frank Quitely of Alan Turing.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is turning out to be a pretty good year for benefit comics, because there wasn’t a single bad story in this one. Like I said, most of the pinups weren’t all that good, but everything else was excellent. If you’re the type of person who’s going to get offended by people who are naked, gay, Muslim, or politically outspoken… well, you probably need to read this more than most folks. Everyone go pick it up. It’s five dollars, but it’s for a truly excellent cause.

Morning Glories #13

We start out with a certain amount of teenager angst, as Hunter’s date with Casey gets cancelled, Hunter has a blowup with Zoe, and Ike has to move back in with the roommates who hate him. And then all the students at the Academy are ordered to report to the front lawn for something called “Woodrun.” At the same time, Casey gets a note from friendly school guidance counselor Ms. Hodge to collect Jade and Hunter and meet her for a very important cause. Unfortunately, Casey can’t find Hunter and is stuck with the loathsome Ike instead. What does Ms. Hodge want? And why does it require everyone to meet in the very spooky cave?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good dialogue, intrigue, suspense, and art. And a nice cliffhanger, too. So many comics seem to be “written for the trades,” where you have a long storyarc that’s designed less to be read in single issues and more as a collected trade paperback. This one seems to be the opposite — there is a coherent storyarc running through the comic, but the story actually seems to be enhanced by being drawn out from month to month. It gives the suspense and mystery time to grow on the reader.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Shock and Awe

Static Shock #2

Static’s encounter with the assassin Virule has ended with one of his arms severed — but then mysteriously healing itself — at the cost of knocking out all the power in New York City. The criminal organization that ordered the hit on Static isn’t happy and threatens to fire the gang in charge of their assassinations — the Slate Gang, a bunch of kids dressed up like something out of “Tron.” Can Static track down the Slaters? And can he survive any more encounters with either them or Virule?

Verdict: Thumbs up, but there’s some seriously weird stuff going on here. Apparently, Static’s sister Sharon has a clone. They both consider themselves the original article, and the family has no idea which one’s the clone — so the Hawkins family has one superhero and a couple of identical mindlinked twins who hate each other. That’s the kind of weirdness that I could accept after a dozen or two issues, but having this pop up out of the middle of nowhere is just mondo bizarro. Even if it’s part of old Static continuity, a big reboot should be your opportunity to remove something that strange, at least initially, to keep from freaking out your readers. I’m still sticking with this one, ’cause I enjoy everything else about the comic, but yowza, that’s just somethin’ else.

iZombie #18

This issue, our focus is on Diogenes, monster-fighting partner of Gwen’s semi-boyfriend Horatio — specifically, we get a look back in time at one of Diogenes’ first missions for the Fossor Corporation, with his mentor Britia, as they track a vampire clan across Brazil. On their way through the rain forest, they encounter were-jaguars, zombies, a poltergeist, and mystic dream-walkers. When they finally make it to the vampires’ secret temple in the middle of the Amazon jungle, the bloodsuckers aren’t anything like what we may have been expecting…

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice done-in-one break from the soap-opera drama going on in Eugene, Oregon. And the identities of the jungle vampires were a welcome and quirky surprise.

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Plants vs. Zombies

Swamp Thing #2

Alec Holland finds himself face-to-face with the Swamp Thing. But wait, didn’t Alec Holland used to be the Swamp Thing? Well, this Swamp Thing is a 1940s-era Swamp Thing, who used to be a pilot named Cal Rodgers. He’d already been marked from birth as a potential Swamp Thing, and when he died in a plane crash, nature transformed him into the Protector of the Green. Now he wants Holland to return to his place as DC’s plant-based swamp monster. Holland doesn’t want any part of this, but he agrees to let the Swamp Thing explain why he’s needed — there’s something called Sethe — neither a creature of the Green, or plant life, nor of the Red, or animal life — it’s a monster of death and decay.

And Holland is actually genetically predisposed to being a perfect candidate for SwampThinghood. Holland nevertheless refuses to become a Swamp Thing again, and the ’40s Swamp Thing reveals that he’s already preparing to die and become part of the Parliament of Trees. But the Sethe is already gunning for Holland, with its ever-growing army of heads-turned-backwards zombies. Holland gets rescued by a mysterious motorcyclist — but did his life just go from bad to worse?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I enjoyed this issue a lot more than I did the first. The art by Yanick Paquette is, probably, even more gorgeous than the first. And it helps the story a lot to have an actual Swamp Thing in the story, even if it isn’t Alec Holland. My primary complaint here is that a lot of the story is extremely text-heavy — can’t be helped, because the Swamp Thing’s mythology is pretty complex, especially with the added twists Scott Snyder is plugging in here. Still, it’s a lot of words, and you gotta be really dedicated to reading a heck of a lot of words in only a small number of pages.

Severed #3

Jack Garron is on his own in Chicago, having missed his chance to meet his real father. He’s now hanging out and playing his violin for tips, while his friend Sam, a homeless girl who cross-dresses to avoid the kinds of creeps who would prey on homeless girls, serves as his manager and promoter. They hope to have enough money in a few weeks to book train passage to Mississippi to find Jack’s father. Unfortunately, they’re being stalked by a child-eating maniac masquerading as a phonograph salesman. The salesman invites them to his place for dinner after hearing Jack play, and despite Sam’s misgivings, they go along. They get a duck dinner, a few laughs at the salesman’s dirty jokes, and a demonstration of his seriously scary bear trap.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I gotta say, for a comic where nothing much happens other than dinner, this was a very tense and suspenseful story. The salesman is entirely nasty enough to take out Jack and Sam by himself, especially with his monster-sized bear trap, so his entire ruse with dinner is strictly about playing with his food. Thoroughly nerve-wracking.

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Friday Night Fights: Rolling the Bones!

Awright, ladies and gentlemen, time to start another hopefully-blissful weekend — and that means it’s time for another round of… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Today’s battle comes to us all the way from July 1968’s Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #2 by the great Jim Steranko! Let’s see what happens when agent Jimmy Woo has to fight his way through a bunch of animated skeletons in a deadly funhouse!

That’s what Halloween is like every year at my house… complete with the spine-shattering. Those durn teenagers are too old for trick-or-treating, I tells ya!

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We Dig Giant Robots

Justice League International #2

While the Hall of Justice has been destroyed in Washington, DC, the Justice League International has found that their simple mission to locate some missing UN workers has become very, very complicated after a giant robot climbs out of a hole in the ground in the middle of Peru. The entire team is completely out of their depth, with too much arguing between Rocket Red and August General in Iron and too much flirting from Godiva. And when the robot attacks and injures Ice, Booster Gold makes the first serious decision of his tenure as team leader — that they should all retreat and get Ice to a doctor. This causes a great deal of stress with the rest of the team and the UN, despite support for Booster’s decision from Batman, Fire, Godiva, and August General. Guy Gardner finally gets around to joining the team, even if it’s mostly to be close to his sorta-girlfriend Ice, but he may not be enough to turn the tide, especially when even more giant robots start appearing all over the world.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Extremely nice art and good action, along with some decent advancement of the plot. It’s just all around good superheroics. If I’ve got a complaint, it’s got to be with the fact that the vast majority of these characters seem to have absolutely no personalities. This series needs to start giving these characters something to do other than fight and quote stilted dialogue at each other.

Snarked #1

Roger Langridge — creator of the acclaimed Muppet Show comics from the past couple years — kicks off his new series, based on the works of “Alice in Wonderland” author Lewis Carroll. The king has been lost at sea for six months, and his treacherous advisors want Princess Scarlett and Prince Rusty out of the way so they can rule. The Cheshire Cat appears (and then disappears) and tells them to scram out of the castle and look for Wilburforce J. Walrus and Clyde McDunk, a couple of fast-talking ne’er-do-wells, to get their protection. But can the money-hungry scoundrels be trusted?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a very cute story, with wonderfully cartoony artwork. Great characterization and dialogue — and I love the way the Cheshire Cat is drawn to look like the old silent-era Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Ya like Franz Frazetta? Sure you do! Check out this tribute from the Pictorial Arts Journal.
  • These little kids performing Metallica are awesome beyond words. Dig the bored-looking little girl who just shreds on the guitar solo.
  • And a lot of these TV rock performances — often featuring bands forced to appear on shows where they’re required to lip-synch their songs — are pretty funny. Loved the video of Iron Maiden randomly trading their instruments back and forth during the show.

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Keep on Truckin’

Secret Avengers #17

Steve Rogers and the Secret Avengers learn about a strange semi truck roaming Serbia and using some mysterious energy to kidnap entire villages for unknown but likely evil purposes. There’s no time to make lots of preparations — so Steve gets Sharon Carter, War Machine, and Valkyrie onto a Quincarrier and rushes them to Eastern Europe to find the strange semi. And what they find is… weird technology in the hands of weird cyber-zombies with bad attitudes. And their truck is resistant to almost everything they do to it. Can the team stop the truck, save the civilians, and track down the bad guys?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good dialogue and outstanding action — and it’s not mindless action, either — this stuff is plotted out carefully, almost choreographed. But I’ve certainly come to expect that from anything Warren Ellis writes.

Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest #1

A flashback to an earlier episode in amphibious B.P.R.D. agent Abe Sapien’s life. In the mid-1980s, Abe meets up with Peter Van Laer, a man whose grandfather was a noted scholar and expert in demonology. The grandfather went missing decades ago — nothing mysterious, he just ran off with a co-ed and deserted the family. But Van Laer has just learned that his grandfather had another son, so he and Abe travel to Maine to visit the uncle and learn what they can about the grandfather’s studies. Things don’t go well — Uncle Turner chops Peter up with an axe, and Abe shoots him dead. The local sheriff investigates, but gets led off by strange noises, and when Abe goes to help, he gets attacked by lizardy insect-monsters. And there are several horrifying things waiting in the basement of the house.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent action — seems like half the comic is skinny, bookish Abe beating the snot out of monsters — and the other half of the comic is amazingly creepy stuff. This is a nice little horror-pulp comic to start October off with.

Dungeons & Dragons #11

Adric Fell and his band of adventurers have worked their way into an ancient citadel in the Feywild, looking for an artifact called the Guide of Gates. The bad news is there’s a wizard working for the bad guys who Adric actually abandoned in the Feywild years ago. The good news is that the wizard is blind and can only identify them by the sound of their voices. They’re able to disguise and bluff their way out of that problem, and Tisha the tiefling warlock gets the wizard off their trail, but the rest of them still have to find the Guide of Gates and battle a gigantic golem. Will they be able to stop the golem, find the Guide, and smuggle the treasure and themselves out past an army of guards?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very good action, dialogue, intrigue — just an amazingly clever and well-done story.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Scraping Off the Reboot

Well, the first month of DC’s “New 52” is over, and I’ve finally gotten all my DC reviews completed.

Obviously, I haven’t read all of the new books — I’ve read 13 of the 52, which is, to my surprise, exactly one-quarter of all the new Number Ones.

So we’ve got a few that I’ve thought were really, really good. We’ve had much too many that were really, really bad. And we’ve got a whole bunch that are just deeply mediocre.

There were some that I liked that everyone else seemed to hate. And there were some I hated that everyone else seemed to love.

Some of ’em, I wish I could’ve reviewed — how much fun would it have been to slam already notoriously-bad comics like “Red Hood and the Outlaws,” “Detective Comics,” “Hawk and Dove,” or “Catwoman”? But I’m glad I didn’t end up paying money for ’em, ’cause it’s no fun to support bad comics.

The thing is, it’s not much fun to support mediocre comics either. So the Rebooted DC is going to have to start impressing me really, really quickly. Some, granted, I really enjoyed, and I’ll keep reading them. Some of them I really hated, and I’ve already decided to drop them. But the mediocre ones are going to get maybe one to three more issues to convince me they’re worth getting.

And the mediocre ones include a bunch that I initially liked but soured on as the month went on. That includes comics like “Action Comics” and “Batgirl” and “Justice League International.” Seems kinda rough to say I might not be reading a Grant Morrison comic about Superman. But ya know, it’s a rickety economy, and I ain’t got all that much cash — and if DC ain’t worth my hard-earned hobby money, that’s just too bad. In a tight economy, boring/average/mediocre comics are just as bad as the ones that really, really suck.

I’m a DC fanboy. I’ve never been a real strong Marvel zombie. But I can live with giving Marvel more money, or more than likely, giving more to IDW, Dark Horse, Boom, and Red 5.

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