Archive for December, 2011

Friday Night Fights: Naughty Spawn, You Face the Tick!

People, I know things are getting more and more hectic as we get closer to Christmas. Heck, even the weekends don’t seem to offer the relief they normally do — there are more activities, and everyone’s trying to get their shopping done. But we gotta grab some enjoyment from our weekends while we can. So let’s get this weekend started the right way, with a little of the ol’ ultraviolence and… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes from November 1989’s The Tick #6 by Ben Edlund. The Tick has stumbled onto his first real supervillain — the seemingly evil and kinda communist Red Scare! How will the nigh invulnerable Tick prevail against this champion of the commies?

Alright, people, get out there and vanquish the forces of Stalinism… by SHOPPING.

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We Got a Great Big Convoy Rockin’ through the Night

Atomic Robo: The Ghost of Station X #4

Robo and his team are under attack and definitely out-gunned by the secret government agency Majestic-12. They’re able to escape them — very narrowly — thanks to tricky driving, tons of crazy science, Jenkins’ badassery, and a convenient truck stop. Once inside, Robo meets up with a bunch of rough, burly truckers and tells them he needs a convoy… for science! And of course, when a robot from the ’30s escapes black helicopters and asks you to risk your truck for him, they all sign on immediately.

Now the major problem for Robo is that he can’t call Tesladyne for help or even send them an e-mail because MJ-12 is certainly monitoring the company’s communications. Well, as long as you’re running in a truckers’ convoy, why not use CB and ham radio? So while a worldwide network of amateur radio enthusiasts work on tracking down the mysterious signals that were tracking Robo and feeding info to MJ-12, former employees Louis and Martin are trying to figure out if their case of a stolen building is the work of a rogue artificial intelligence. Can Robo find out who wants him dead, and can he figure out how to get his metallic fingers on him?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is definitely one of the best comics out there. Fun art, great dialogue and action. Robo forming his Science Convoy was definitely a highlight, but it was also cool watching the CB and ham radio guys tracking down the rogue signals. All in all, just a great comic book.

Snarked #3

Princess Scarlett — now the Queen, in the absence of her father — needs to get hold of a map hidden in the palace that will show where her father is being held. After a daring trip past the castle guards, Scarlett searches the castle for the map — and then tries to figure out how to escape — while Wilburforce J. Walrus, Clyde McDunk, and Prince Rusty try to hire a ship to help them find the king. Unfortunately, the only crew willing to talk to them seem to all be completely insane. Can the get the map and a ship without attracting the attention of every guard in the city?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wonderfully warped all-ages fare. Grandly goofy artwork and writing, too.

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Monster Love

iZombie #20

Holy bananas, that’s a wonderful cover.

Gwen is hiding out in a tomb, endlessly pacing, because she wants to avoid her ex-boyfriend Horatio, the leftover zombies, and the Dead Presidents. But eventually, one of the Presidents locates her and goes to get the rest of the group. Elsewhere, Ellie the ghost girl is helping to care for Francisco, who’s been turned into a Frankenstein-like monster by Galatea the mad scientist. Ellie is falling for him, but can’t even touch him. And Spot is about to meet up with his semi-sorta-boyfriend until Amon shows up and kidnaps him.

Verdict: Thumbs up. If you’re into unbelievably weird monster-flavored soap opera, this is the book for you. The art is great, the storytelling is excellent, and the characterization and dialogue are fun, too.

Batgirl #4

We get some more of Barbara Gordon’s backstory. She still suffers from survivor’s guilt because she not only survived getting shot by the Joker but managed to recover from being paralyzed as well. We also get some info about how that recovery happened — Jim Gordon discovered a clinic in South Africa that was able to return her ability to walk. She goes out to bust some crime as Batgirl and runs across some thugs who are using a smartphone app designed to track appearances by Batman so they’ll at least know they won’t run into the Dark Knight — too bad the app didn’t track Batgirl, because of course, she stomps them flat.

In the process of beating up the muggers, she realizes how to track Mirror, the serial killer who targets people who’ve survived by seeming miracles — since he’s obsessed by the deaths of his family, of course he’d be visiting their graves on the anniversary of the accident that killed them. Batgirl leaves him a note and tells him to meet her at a deserted amusement park. But does Batgirl really have a chance against the stronger and more heavily armed lunatic?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Really excellent characterization on Barbara. Still not sure I’m buying the “really awesome medical clinic” as her miracle cure, though. The action, however, is really fantastic. There are a couple of outstanding fight scenes, and they’re exciting and perfectly done.

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #4

Frankenstein, Lady Frankenstein, and the Creature Commandos are on Monster Planet trying to track down and destroy the giant monsters there. They learn that Monster Planet is actually sentient — and dying. It was taken over by the monsters, and they’re trying to get Monster Planet to Earth so they can take over Earth as their new host planet. While Frankenstein and Nina Mazursky have a fairly easy time getting to the giant undersea monster because his monstrous minions see Dr. Mazursky as their mother, things don’t go nearly so easily for Lady Frankenstein, Vincent Velcoro and Warren Griffith — they have to fight their way through nearly limitless hordes of ogres! Luckily, S.H.A.D.E. ships them some backup — the War Wheels and the G.I. Robot Squadron. Can the team kill both giant monsters and still make it back home to Earth?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Grand fun. The art’s still a bit funky, but I think it’s definitely growing on me. Otherwise, great character work and dialogue, nice action, and a lot of bizarre, hilarious stuff going on here.

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Holiday Gift Bag: Munchkin Axe Cop

The holidays will be here before you know it, and we’ve still got more gift recommendations to dig through! Can we finish all this stuff before Christmas? Today, let’s take a look at Munchkin Axe Cop!

If you pay any attention to gaming, you probably have heard of Munchkin, a humorous card game put out by Steve Jackson Games. The basic concept focuses on munchkins — power-mad, cheating, power-gamers who play roleplaying games to WIN instead of playing to have fun. The first game spotlighted the fantasy genre, but the company has come out with plenty of other expansions, with emphasis on science fiction, martial arts, pirates, zombies, goth vampire roleplayers, Westerns, Cthulhu, and of course, even superheroes.

The basic gameplay is the same over all the games: players “kick down a door” by flipping over one of the Door cards, which usually reveal some sort of ridiculous pun-based monster that you have to fight. If you can beat it (by matching your level, plus your bonuses and equipment, against the monster’s level), then you get to draw a Treasure card (which usually has ridiculous pun-based treasure, armor, and weapons) and you go up a level. Of course, your opponents can interfere in the battle, either by helping you fight, or by helping the monster. The first player to level 10 wins and gets to cruelly taunt the losers.

Well, the newest expansion is Munchkin Axe Cop, based on the utterly mad webcomic by Ethan and Malachai Nicolle. All the artwork is by Ethan, the 30-year-old big brother, while the game design is by game industry legend Steve Jackson. And of course, the insane concepts and characters — the cop who keeps turning into different things when blood spills on him, the man wearing the baby costume, the dinosaur with chaingun arms, the baby with a unicorn horn, the nonconformist bunny, the duck who shoots exploding eggs out of his butt, the super-cop carrying a fireman’s axe — are by seven-year-old Malachai.

So how does this play out once you get the cards out of the box? Well, I can tell you you’ll have the most fun if you’re playing with people who are already familiar with Axe Cop. If you pull this game out after Christmas dinner to play with your family, your grandmother, Uncle Ned, and Cousin Merle will probably be pretty confused about the game where one of the villains is made of candy, a flute is considered a dangerous weapon, and Abraham Lincoln is an Explosion God. Better stick with Monopoly with folks who are unfamiliar with either Munchkin or Axe Cop.

But for people who are pretty clued in about the goofy cutthroat fun of Munchkin and the delirious lunacy of Axe Cop? Those folks are gonna love it, and they’ll probably love it as a Christmas gift. It’ll run you about $25, but that’s a lot of cards and a lot of fun.

Munchkin Axe Cop from Steve Jackson Games. Go pick it up.

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Tiny Titans cancelled

I’ll be blasted.

This has probably been the comic I always looked forward to the most every month. Yes, just an all-ages comic, but as I’ve said over and over, a lot of the very best comics out there are all-ages comics. They’re fun, accessible, and exciting for readers of any age. And we’re losing one of the best ones in March.

Just four issues left. But at least it’ll make it to #50. Plenty of comics don’t even get that much of a chance.

Kudos to Art Baltazar and Franco for putting out so many wonderful, cute, hilarious, beautifully created issues. And if the rest of y’all haven’t been picking this up, you’d really better go looking for the trade paperbacks.

Baltazar and Franco will be working on a new kids series called “Superman Family Adventures,” so we’ll at least get some of their comics work in the future.

Still, I’m going to be in mourning for this comic for a while. Heck, I’ll be in mourning on behalf of comics everywhere. It’s so depressing to see awesome comics get cancelled.

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Vulture Culture

The Amazing Spider-Man #675

Peter Parker teams up with his ex-girlfriend, CSI tech Carlie Cooper, who’s still bitter that Peter never told her he was Spider-Man. They’re trying to track down the Vulture’s new crew of flying burglars, and they eventually figure out that they’re based out of a new dance club. Unfortunately, by the time Spidey gets there, it’s still a case of one Spider-Man vs. a whole flock of Vultures. Is there any way he can survive?

Verdict: Thumbs up. And I must admit, what I’m most impressed by is the fact that we just had a complete story wrap up in just two issues. Not six, not eight, not a whole year’s worth of comics, but just two issues. I do wish comics publishers would do that a bit more often…

Swamp Thing #4

Alec Holland and Abby Arcane are on the trail of Abby’s brother, William Arcane, a kid on the way to becoming an avatar of death, rot, and decay, the way Swamp Things are avatars of the plant world. Unfortunately, they miss William after he slaughters a diner full of people. Abby insists that they bunk down for the night, choosing an open grassy field because it’ll be less likely that the Rot will have dead matter to use against them. While sleeping, Alec communes with the Parliament of Trees, who are still unhappy that he’s resisting becoming the Swamp Thing. They tell him that the war between the Green (plant life), the Red (animal life), and the Rot has been going on since prehistoric times, and they tell him that he shold kill Abby, as she has as strong a connection to the Rot as William does. Do Alec and Abby dare travel together any longer?

Verdict: I don’t know. The artwork is gorgeous, even without Yanick Paquette on the pencils. The horror is pretty good. But I’m still irritated that this book is drawing out turning Alec Holland into the Swamp Thing for so blasted long.

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Here are these three comics I got fairly recently:

All Star Western #3

The Unwritten #31.5

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – Russia #3

Honestly, I liked all three of them. I thought all three were well-written and well-illustrated. But I’ve not been able to summon up an ounce of enthusiasm for writing about them in-depth. I think that probably still counts as a thumbs-up. But YMMV.

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Friday Night Fights: Sturm und Fang!

Sometimes, I just cannot handle the holidays. Every week closer to Christmas just gets crazier and crazier and crazier, and more and more difficult to handle. Even the weekends aren’t always enough, but we gotta make the best of them while we can. So let’s get this one started right with a little gratuitous violence and… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from July 2010’s American Vampire #3 by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque, as new vampire Pearl Jones takes on a few undead rivals.

And that is how vampires have a face-off. Get it? Get it, you guys? Get it?

Everyone have a great weekend.

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Playing Defense

The Defenders #1

“The Defenders” has always seemed like a weird series — never a sales leader, never remarked upon much within the Marvel Universe itself, mainly kept going as a tribute to fan nostalgia. Don’t know if that’ll change this time, but Marvel has resurrected the title again, this time with Matt Fraction as the writer and Terry Dodson handling the art chores.

We start out with a vast number of bad omens and badly-timed coincidences plaguing the planet, while Dr. Strange wraps up a quickly regretted one-night-stand with a coed. He divines some vague sense of bad things on the horizon just before he gets a visit from the Hulk — not a raging monster this time, the Hulk is fairly calm and intelligent these days. They quickly assemble the classic Defenders team — Dr. Strange, the Hulk, Namor, and the Silver Surfer — and the Hulk tells them he wants the hammer that turned him into Nul, Breaker of Worlds during the “Fear Itself” crossover destroyed. Only problem is that Hulk refuses to come along to help — he doesn’t want it taking him over again. So the rest of the Defenders go recruiting…

After adding Betty Ross, the Hulk’s ex-wife and current Red She-Hulk, and Iron Fist to their roster, the team tracks Nul to Wundagore Mountain, home of the High Evolutionary. About the time they make it to Wundagore, something blows their plane out of the sky, and Iron Fist gets shot in the chest. This is not an auspicious beginning for the group, is it?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice characterization and dialogue for everyone, though I deeply dislike the Silver Surfer’s extremely pale word balloons. I love the art, but that’s to be expected for anything done by Terry Dodson. Looking forward to future issues of this one.

Justice League International #4

The JLI has been subdued by underground gremlins underneath the giant robot Sentrymen, and Guy Gardner stumbles onto the mastermind behind all the chaos, an interstellar despot called Peraxxus. He reveals to the team that he intends to use the Sentrymen to smash the Earth into bits so he can harvest the mineral wealth of the planet. The team manages to escape confinement, but will they be able to stop Peraxxus or keep him from destroying the world?

Verdict: I believe I’ll thumbs this one down. The thing that bugged me all the way through this issue is that everyone worries over and over that if the JLI fails, there’s no one to stop the end of the world. But gee, shouldn’t the regular Justice League, the one with Superman and Wonder Woman and the Flash and Green Lantern, have stepped in and wrapped this all up by now?

Static Shock #4

Okay, I said I was done with this one, but I keep seeing preview covers that make me want to read it, and I keep feeling like there are some very interesting things going on here, so I guess I’m sticking with it for a while longer.

Static gets stuck fighting someone called Guillotina who works for the mob boss Piranha. He wants a mad scientist called Doctor Nemo to create an army of metahumans to fight Static. Meanwhile, we learn some of the secrets of Piranha’s lieutenant, a Joker lookalike called the Pale Man, and we get a few more insights into the problem of Virgil Hawkins’ sister, Sharon, whose clone is so similar to her that no one is able to tell them apart.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Mainly because there’s so much superhero stuff going on — and not nearly enough focus on the stuff that’s really interesting: Sharon and her clone, the Pale Man’s background, and the mystery of who Guillotina is. The subplots here are vastly more interesting than the main plot.

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Holiday Gift Bag: The Major Bummer Super Slacktacular

I’m already starting to get a bit behind on these gift recommendations, so let’s get back into ’em. Today, we’re going to talk about The Complete Major Bummer Super Slacktacular.

A little history: “Major Bummer” was a humor comic published by DC from 1997-1998. It was written by John Arcudi, with art by Doug Mahnke. It didn’t appear to be within DC’s normal continuity — no other superheroes appeared, and Lou was never mentioned in any other DC books. There was also no one named “Major Bummer” in the comic — the title was part pun and part a thematic mission statement — namely, “Superpowers suuuuck, now let’s have a larf at people being brutally injured.”

Our main character was Lou Martin, a skinny, unmotivated slacker with few interests outside of eating, sleeping, and playing video games. But after a couple of alien grad students accidentally implanted him with a hypertech superheart, Lou was transformed into a superstrong, musclebound, super-smart slacker with few interests outside of eating, sleeping, playing video games, and trying to avoid being horribly maimed by supervillains.

The comic’s supporting characters included a group of misfits who’d received their own superpowers: Gecko (a superhero fanboy who could stick to walls), Val (a gorgeous babe who could fly and had the hots for Lou), Lauren (an elderly, scatterbrained lady who could see the future), and Francis (a condescending artiste with a supersonic scream).

The main villains were a bunch of superpowered thugs: impossibly-skinny claw-slinger Carlos, super-hot density-controlling Nancy, chubby electro-punk Bridget, big-brained weirdo Reggie, and Nunzio. Really, Nunzio was the only one who actually counted — he was a gigantic, red-skinned, lizardy monster who was way, way tougher than Lou was.

Other villains included the alien grad students, Zinnac and Yoof, a transdimensional Nazi thunder lizard called Tyranosaurus Reich, a psychotic, buck-toothed hero-worshiping geek named Milton, a demon-possessed toddler, and Val’s horrible parents.

The violence in this book, mainly directed at Lou, was entirely gratuitous, over-the-top, and ridiculous. Lou gets repeatedly beaten to a bloody pulp by Nunzio and various other threats. He gets bitten, clawed, shot, dropped out of planes, and trampled by elephants. In one memorable panel in the final issue, he even gets used as a club to beat a future version of himself.

DC has never bothered to put this out in a collected trade paperback, which was just insane, because it was such a grand series. Eventually, Arcudi and Mahnke were able to take the entire series to Dark Horse Comics, and they published this single gigantic volume earlier this year. If you missed the original series, this will run you about $30, but it’s really the only way to see what all the awesomeness was all about.

The Complete Major Bummer Super Slacktacular by John Arcudi and Doug Mahnke. Go pick it up.

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