Archive for January, 2012

From Russia with Love

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – Russia #5

Last issue, Johann Kraus detonated a nuke on the zombies and monsters running amok underground in Russia. Did he survive? Well, yes, actually, he did, and he’s already gotten a new containment suit. Provided by the Moscow bureau director Iosif Nichayko, it’s actually based on his own, more advanced suit — and Johann would really prefer to keep it, no matter how much Kate Corrigan dislikes it. Meanwhile, Iosif tries to make nice with Kate, the Russians take out some of their own citizens, Abe Sapien goes through some changes, and we finally find out what happened to Varvara, the impossibly creepy, vodka-swilling little girl/demon who appeared in some earlier B.P.R.D. series.

Verdict: Thumbs up. An excellent end to this storyarc, with lots of changes for everyone, dire warnings of more trouble on the horizon, and a nice continuity nod for fans (like me) of Varvara.

American Vampire #23

Teen bad-boy Travis is chasing down the vampire who destroyed his family and has kidnapped Piper, his girlfriend — well, more like the girl he pretended was his girlfriend so he could kill the vampires who were making her run chores and errands for them. While this is all going on, we get some flashbacks of Travis’ past — held in a mental hospital and subjected to shock therapy as a child because he insisted on believing that vampires were real. Will Travis be able to save Piper? And who’s the vampire he’s been chasing all these years?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s one long car chase! Sure, there are the flashbacks, but this is pretty much the coolest car chase I’ve ever seen in a comic book. And the final page reveal of Travis’ opponent is pretty nice, too.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • I love this — a blog dedicated to the opposite of Women in Refrigerators: women being awesome in superhero comics.
  • Nice article about the hostility a lot of science fiction seems to have for the common folk.
  • Alright, I haven’t actually watched this, because I’ve decided life is too short to spend watching “Star Wars” again. But if you want to see how a lot of people remade the film, 15 seconds at a time, then you’ll want to watch “Star Wars Uncut.”

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Friday Night Fights: Wallbanger!

It’s been a while since we did this, but it’s been a rough few weeks, and I think it’s definitely time we all got some serious enjoyment out of this weekend. And the best way to start off a weekend? I think we all know by now that it starts with… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Today’s battle comes from February 1965’s The Amazing Spider-Man #21 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Spidey’s teamed up with the Human Torch as they track down the Beetle, but it looks like the bad guy is about the get the drop on Johnny Storm.

And I’ve just about hit the wall, too. Let’s hope I can get maximum relaxation out of this weekend, for once…

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Praise Godzilla

Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #11

Godzilla and King Ghidorah are down, but Rodan and Battra have just arrived on the scene, both mentally controlled by the evil French telepath girls. They want to control even more giant monsters, and to get Godzilla back to fighting strength, they have Rodan and Battra carry him to a nuclear power plant, drop him in, and blow it up. Godzilla is energized, but will he be bent to the twins’ wills? And is anything going to be left standing afterwards?

Verdict: Thumbs up. For the most part, a knock-down, drag-out fight between Godzilla, Rodan, and Battra. It’s good fightin’, and even though they’re all giant monsters, it’s all smart fightin’, too.

All Star Western #5

Jonah Hex and Doc Arkham are stuck underground, surrounded by — well, I think we can call ’em mutants. They’re quickly disarmed and thrown into an underground river, where they’re washed out in a waterfall and stuck on a narrow ledge. Things get worse from there, as Arkham’s panic about dying of starvation attracts a bunch of cave-dwelling Indians who all try to kill them. Once they escape them, things get even worse when they have to climb a sheer cliff. And then things get even worse.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wow, Doc Arkham really is completely useless — amusingly, frustratingly useless. Besides that, it’s got good action, good dialogue, and it’s just all-around good fun.

Secret Avengers #21.1

The first of Rick Remender’s run on this series opens with a mission just for Captain America and Hawkeye. They’re running around the rogue nation of Bagalia. They’re on a mission to save an American politician from assassination — but he’s not even a real person, just a robotic Life Model Decoy. And it turns out the whole escapade was a test for Hawkeye to see if he was ready to take over the Secret Avengers. Cap is mad at him for flunking the test, Hawkeye is mad at Cap for treating him like a junior space cadet. They split up to go home — and then Cap gets ambushed and captured by Whiplash, Vengeance, and Princess Python — they’re working with Max Fury, a Life Model Decoy who looks like Nick Fury, so they can form a new Masters of Evil team. Will they be able to use Cap’s capture to create anti-American propaganda?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not half bad. Good art, good dialogue, good story. We’ll see if Hawkeye can actually manage to lead a covert team or not…

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Into the Woods

Finally getting the last two weeks’ worth of comics reviewed… just in time to pick up new comics this afternoon. Siiiiigh.

Morning Glories #15

Zoe, Hunter, and Jun are participating in something called Woodrun, which involves them… running through the woods. Jun gets eliminated pretty quickly when he’s flagged by another team — no serious penalty, but he’s out of the game and has to go back to the campus. Hunter gets some friendly chatting done with a fellow geeky student, and Zoe reminisces about how her life went to hell in high school. The two students, who normally hate each other’s guts, get in a little time to talk to each other in a non-antagonistic fashion, and everything seems pretty hunky-dory. But nothing ever seems to turn out completely positive in this comic…

Verdict: Thumbs up. What a cliffhanger! On top of that, we’ve got good dialogue, good characterization, and more backstory for Zoe. It’s all good stuff — go grab it while you can.

Demon Knights #5

Our heroes are all undergoing more stress and disagreement as the night wears on, and the Questing Queen and Mordru take advantage by sending their astral bodies out to tempt the heroes to desert the villagers. Who will resist? And who will betray their companions?

Verdict: Thumbs up, but it was actually a lot less enjoyable than other issues. It’s just going on and on and on, and I think this storyarc could’ve been wrapped up faster than this. Writing for the trade makes for dull, over-long comics…

Secret Avengers #21

Looks like the whole Secret Avengers crew is along for the ride on this one. The team stages a fake emergency at the Office of National Emergency to try to track down an employee who is a secret agent of the Shadow Council. Once they get the mole to reveal themselves, they learn what the Shadow Council has been up to — secret breeding experiments to create human hybrids who could turn into terrifying and all-but unstoppable monsters — and those monsters are just seconds from waking up in the building’s basement. Any chance anyone can stop the unstoppable monsters?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice set-up, nice complications, nice solution. Not a lot of fancy characterization, but this is an action comic, and it definitely brings on the action.

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #5

Frankenstein and OMAC beat up on each other while Brother Eye tries to infiltrate

Verdict: Thumbs down. I don’t mind an all-fighting comic, but this was all-dumb-fighting, and I don’t like those at all.

Today’s Cool Links:

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All the Bats

Still trying to clear out two weeks’ worth of comics as fast as I can. Today, let’s take on the Bat books.

Batwoman #5

Kate has a final tense confrontation with the Drowned Woman, the ghost who let her children drown and has been abducting children in Gotham. Though the Drowned Woman assaults her with memories of her lost twin sister, Kate is eventually able to trap the ghost in fire and dispell her. But before she disappears, she tells Batwoman that the lost children can be found in “Medusa’s coils.” But her investigation gets pulled up short when she gets a visit from Agent Cameron Chase and Director Bones of the Department of Extranormal Operations, and they want to offer Kate a deal…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Still the absolute most beautiful comic book on the stands. If I’ve got anything I’m disappointed in, it’s that Bette Kane’s story gets so completely shortchanged — she’s reduced to a nonspeaking cameo in a hospital bed, and I was hoping to see more from her.

Batgirl #5

Batgirl runs into a family of mobsters who are behaving very strangely, holding up cars and demanding exactly $3.88. Once Barbara intervenes, the dad of the family cold-heartedly kills his sons and tries to jump off a bridge. Babs manages to snag him with a rope, but she’s interrupted by a woman named Gretel who beats the stuffing out of her and then just strolls off like she’s got a drug buzz. Next time Batgirl catches up to Gretel, she’s got her sights set on Bruce Wayne — and she’s got an unexpected accomplice.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Gretel makes an interesting villain, the “338” motif makes for an interesting mystery, and the whole story is good fun. Not a big fan of the subplot with Barbara’s mother, but maybe it’ll be interesting later.

Batman #5

The Dark Knight is in a heap o’ trouble. He’s lost somewhere underground, affected by mind-warping drugs and not enough food or water, and going through day after day after day of bizarre hallucination as he’s stalked by the Court of Owls. Can he survive with his mind intact? Can he survive at all?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A totally weird, wild comic. Just reading it makes you feel off-balance — probably because the comic flips on its side after a few pages, then turns completely upside-down. Great art from Greg Capullo and fun writing from Scott Snyder.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • John Rozum has a long, depressing post about the experience of writing comics for DC. At this point, I think I’m rooting for DC to cease publication of everything…
  • This short movie about a warbot with human memories makes me wish it was a heck of a lot longer than just five minutes.
  • A TV station barred from filming in court turns to puppetry instead.

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Spiders, Devils, Cats

Okay, I know I just got back from one hiatus. But can I have another? I’m so freakin’ tired of writing comics reviews. What, no more hiatuses? You guys are slavedrivers.

The Amazing Spider-Man #677

So Spidey runs into the Black Cat, and being the recently-dumped loser he is, he tries to get her to hook up with him. And she blows him off ’cause the Wall-Crawler was coming across as entirely needy and desperate. Soon afterwards, she gets arrested for stealing a hologram emitter from Horizon Labs, where Peter Parker works — but he doesn’t believe she did it. He tries to enlist Matt Murdock’s help in defending her, which of course leads to a team-up between Spider-Man and Daredevil. And that means lots of snappy patter and superheroes daring each other to jump off of skyscrapers. When the trail leads through some bad guys using a holographic projector, is the chase already almost over, or is the Black Cat going to get the drop on everyone?

Daredevil #8

And the continuation of the two-part story sees Spidey, Daredevil, and Black Cat teaming up to look for the villains who framed Felicia Hardy. Before long, they realize the thief actually worked for Horizon Labs — he’s been overdosed with poison, so Spidey rushes him to the hospital, while Daredevil and Felicia head for the criminal organization that’s really responsible. But will they be able to find the equipment? And will this lead to the kind of romantic entanglement that Matt Murdock and Felicia Hardy are both famous for?

Verdict: Thumbs up, for both issues. Excellent story, beautiful art (and an outstanding cover!), amazing characterization and dialogue and action and humor. These two issues got everything you want from a fun superhero comic book. Go get ’em, kiddios.

The Amazing Spider-Man #678

And back to an issue of Spidey’s comic! Peter Parker has to deal with Grady, an irritating co-worker at Horizon Labs — and in this case, he’s an irritating co-worker who’s just invented a time portal that takes someone 24 hours into the future! When Grady steps through the portal, he gets to bring back tomorrow’s paper. But when Peter steps through, he finds New York City smashed to rubble! Grady realizes that anyone who goes through the portal skips forward in time, so the resulting destruction resulted because Peter Parker wasn’t in the Big Apple for 24 hours. So that means Spider-Man needs to do something to avert a future catastrophe. But will Spidey and Grady be able to figure out what went wrong before it’s too late?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good plot and characterization. Fantastic cliffhanger. Really looking forward to seeing how this gets resolved.

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Tiny Titans #48

Barbara decides to finally unmask to reveal… Barbara Gordon! Holy bananas, what a shocker! And Wonder Girl reveals her own amazing secret — she has an orange that tells her secrets! Wait, what? When did Wonder Girl go crazy? At any rate, Barbara takes a bunch of the Tiny Titans to her Bat-Lair so everyone can try on retro costumes and disco the night away. Wonder Girl also gets a new costume and creates the Secret Oranges of the Justice League! And where the Secret Oranges go, can the League of Just Us Cows be far behind?

Verdict: Thumbs up. One of the most wonderfully insane issues of this series I’ve seen yet. Wonderfully funny and almost completely adrift from reality. Good grief, why would DC want to cancel this series? They’re crazier than Wonder Girl.

Snarked #4

Wilburforce J. Walrus, Clyde McDunk, Princess Scarlett, and Prince Rusty need to get to a ship waiting for them on the docks, but how can they go anywhere when the army — and the terrifyingly competent Gryphon — are searching for them? Well, probably by getting the guards drunk and dressing up like floozies. Isn’t that how it always works? But do these sad-sack renegades really stand a chance of escaping to find the lost king?

Verdict: Thumbs up. An all-around fun comic with a ton of madcap antics and shenanigans that make this an all-ages winner.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Beware the Claw!

Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1

This new Lobster Johnson series starts off with a 1930s setting, a scalped cop, and a bunch of mobsters dressed up as ghostly Indians. They all get slaughtered by Lobster Johnson before they can kill anyone else, and the case attracts the attention of a newspaper reporter named Cindy Tynan, and while most of the locals refuse to talk to her, she’s able to get a lot of the backstory from Harry McTell, a black mechanic, who shares his theory that the mobsters are pulling a Scooby-Doo plot — scare off all the locals, then buy their homes for a song. But when the Mob finds out that Cindy is snooping into their business, they’re going to send a few goons out to give her a permanent deadline.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent writing as ever from Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, with the excellent addition of Tonci Zonjic on art chores. Zonjic does a great job with action, facial expressions, and pretty much everything he works on, and I always love seeing his stuff.

Wonder Woman #5

While Wonder Woman, Hermes, and Zola hang around London, they meet up with a guy named Lennox, who claims to be the half-mortal son of one of the gods. He offers to help them out, and Wonder Woman gets to have a meeting with Poseidon, the very large and very fishy god of the sea. How will he react to Wondy’s request for an audience? And what kind of trouble is Lennox going to run into in London’s sewers?

Verdict: I’ll thumb this one up for the sake of Tony Akins’ art (which isn’t as good as Cliff Chiang’s, but is still pretty good) and for the always-fun visions of the modern-day Greek pantheon. But I don’t yet understand why anyone should care about Lennox, and the issue in general doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of story or action running through it.

Severed #6

Jack Garron is traveling to his father’s home in Mississippi with the traveling salesman, who he has recently discovered is a violent, murderous man who’s lied about his friend Sam deserting and robbing him. Jack gives the salesman the wrong address to his father’s home, then accompanies him to the “recording studio” — actually just a shack in the swamp. Jack tries to kill him with a switchblade, but the salesman has an axe — and his scary shark teeth. Jack wisely beats it outta there and steals the salesman’s car. Hoping he’s seen the last of the salesman, Jack heads for his father’s home, only to learn that both of his birth parents have been dead for almost a decade. So who’s been sending him letters all this time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great suspense and beautiful artwork. This one’s nearing the end, and I’m keen to see how it all works out.

The Unwritten #33

More and more people worldwide believe that Tom Taylor is the boy wizard Tommy Taylor, and as a result, Tom is hyper-charged with magical power. He plans to hit the Cabal’s headquarters as soon as possible so he’ll have enough magic to overwhelm their defenses, but he needs more information about where their HQ is located, which he manages to get by summoning and interrogating the ghost of the architect who created the building. But the Cabal knows he’s probably on the way. Pullman gives them a lecture on how consensus reality works and doesn’t work, and the Cabal’s masters work on a desperate gamble involving storytelling. Do they stand a chance of stopping Tom?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good dialogue, plot development and twists, fun art. As always, a good, solid read.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Okay, this is obviously not an official blackout of the blog — but I do support all the blackouts today, as well as any other efforts to defeat SOPA and PIPA.

What are we talking about? SOPA = the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House of Representatives. And PIPA = the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate. They sound real nice, but the way they’re written, they’d have a good chance of shutting down large chunks of the Internet. If passed, they would damage Internet security, make things much rougher for online innovators and businesses, and have a strong chilling effect on free speech. I consider both of these bills some of the most anti-First Amendment and anti-American bills I’ve ever seen from any Congress.

I’m not going to waste your time by going over all the issues and dangers that SOPA and PIPA pose, especially when the Electronic Frontier Foundation has already done it so much better than I could.

I do consider these bills to be something that could affect blogs just like mine. Most of my content revolves around comic books, and both DC and Marvel have come down in favor of SOPA and PIPA. If they wanted to, they could use laws like these to demand that my blog be blocked for posting scans of comic covers or interior panels — which have been permitted for decades as “fair use.” This isn’t something that will only affect downloaders — it’ll affect people who use Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, YouTube, Vimeo, Etsy, Flickr, DeviantArt, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Amazon — frankly, I think it could end up affecting almost every website in the country.

The House has temporarily retreated from SOPA, at least until they think no one’s watching them, but the Senate is still working to pass PIPA. Both of these bills need to be crushed out of existence.

And to be honest, we all need to ask our Congressional representatives why they’ve been working so very, very hard to pass anti-American bills like this. We have to ask them why, we need to hold their feet to the fire, and they need to know we’re angry.

Call your Congresscritters. Be polite or they’ll ignore you. But tell them you’re angry. And tell them to oppose any bills that censor the Internet.

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Lost in the ’50s Tonight

First, a short announcement.

The blog is going on a hiatus. Hopefully a short one, but it may be longer. My grandmother has died, and I may not feel like writing about comic books for a while.

However, I still had these two reviews finished and ready to go, so let’s go ahead and get them out of the way.

I’ll see y’all when I see y’all…

American Vampire #22

A new storyarc and a new setting, as we move into the 1950s. Our new lead character is Travis Kidd, a 19-year-old with cool sunglasses, a leather jacket, greased-up hair, a fast car, and a bad attitude. He’s dating Piper Francis, a pretty blonde, and Piper’s parents really don’t like Travis at all. Bad news for Travis that Piper’s folks are actually vampires… and even worse news for the vampires that Travis is a skilled vampire hunter. After a run-in with Agent Hobbes from the Vassals of the Morning Star reveals the identity of the vampire who killed Travis’ family, is Travis going to get in over his head?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art, great story, and all of it mixed in with all your favorite ’50s archetypes. This one is just grand fun, people.

Swamp Thing #5

Alec Holland and Abby Arkane are trying to catch up to Abby’s deranged brother William before he gives himself over too completely to the Rot, the spiritual manifestation of death and decay. Unfortunately, William gets the drop on them with a bunch of recently slaughtered livestock. But Alec is able to tap into his plant-controlling powers to tear their undead attackers apart and strand William in a tree. But the war between the Green and the Rot is fought on more than one front, and the good guys may have already lost.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wow, I actually enjoyed an issue of this comic. Sure, we still haven’t seen the Swamp Thing yet, but at least we’ve got Alec Holland using plant powers and doing something active, instead of just being dragged along and getting stuff explained to him. Maybe if we finally see Swamp Thing next issue, this comic will be something worth keeping up with.

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