Archive for March, 2012

Friday Night Fights: Breakneck Sheep!

Okay, so our last edition of Friday Night Fights featured the Hulk not really covering himself in glory when he, the most powerful creature in the Marvel Universe, fights a bear and accidentally breaks its neck because he’s too dim to know his own strength. But surely, that’s unfair to the Hulk — who wouldn’t get carried away doing something as awesome as fighting a bear? I bet he’s much more in-control of himself normally, right?

So, from the same comic as last week, November 1984’s Marvel Fanfare #17, in a story by David Anthony Kraft and Tony Salmons, the Hulk fights the cosmic menace of… a bighorn sheep.

OMG, Hulk, you are the worst.

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The Horror in the Hills

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – The Pickens County Horror #1

Here’s the beginning of a new two-issue miniseries. It’s set in a small rural county in South Carolina, during the ongoing slow destruction of the BPRD world. We start out with a small family of country vampires who discover something unexpected and terrifying out in the woods. Jump forward to a few days later, and two BPRD agents, Vaughn and Peters, arrive in Pickens County to investigate reports of a strange fog — they’re not really expecting to find anything at all, but a combination of green fog, mysterious mushrooms, figures in the dark, and a creepy academic obsessed with vampires puts both of them in serious danger.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’ll be honest — almost anything titled “The Pickens County Horror” would probably get a thumbs-up from me, because it’s such a perfect horror-story title. At any rate, I got a lot of joy from the story itself — mostly mood and creepiness for now, but I’m very interested in how Mike Mignola and Scott Allie are going to combine vampires, mutant mushrooms, and apocalyptic horror.

American Vampire #25

Travis Kidd is a ’50s vampire-hunting hoodlum, facing Skinner Sweet, the original American vampire — and Sweet’s powers aren’t being negated by the new moon anymore. Does Travis have any chance to survive? Can he prevail against the vastly more powerful Skinner? Why does he have such a mad-on for Skinner anyway? Does Agent Hobbes have any part to play in all of this? And what’s Pearl Preston been up to lately?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yeah, I left all the spoilers out, ’cause this one’s darn good and has a bunch of really fun stuff buried in there. If you aren’t reading this comic… well, I really don’t know what’s the matter with you. It’s just about the best horror comic on the stands right now.

Morning Glories #17

The majority of this issue focuses on Jade and Ike, stuck sitting in a magical cavern under the academy, waiting to see if Casey and Ms. Hodge are ever going to vanish like they said they would. In fact, our spotlight character is definitely Jade, as we get plenty of flashbacks to her past. For the most part, Ike needles her, Jade reacts, sometimes furiously, sometimes sadly. It’s a very dialogue-heavy issue, as Jade and Ike discuss Casey’s trustworthiness, Jade’s suicidal tendencies, religion and atheism, and what the Morning Glory Academy may really be all about.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Like I said, an issue very heavy on dialogue — and luckily, it’s very strong, entertaining, snappy dialogue that’s fun to read, whether Ike and Jade are insulting each other or talking philosophy. The snapshots of Jade’s past are also very good. This storyarc is supposed to finish up next issue, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.

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Who Will You See at the Expo?

I expect you’ve heard by now that the fifth annual Lubbock Comic Book Expo, Saturday, April 14th from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, April 15th from noon to 5 p.m. It’s going to be part of the 34th annual Lubbock Arts Festival, and it’ll be in the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center at 1501 Mac Davis Lane in Lubbock.

So what can you expect to see there? How ’bout lots of special guests, including S. Steven Struble, Josh Howard, Matt Sturges, Will Terrell, Greg Harms, Chris Summers, McLain McGuire, Rob Bass, Chris Beaver, Scott Zirkel, J.P. Targete, the Cat, Bolt Designs, and the 501st Legion. And probably quite a few more. Including you, I hope!

There will also be quite a few panel discussions, including the ever-popular costume contest.

Keep an eye on the Lubbock Comics website — they’ll have news all the time about new guests and new events.

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Tarzan Boy

Dark Horse Presents #10

Lots of stuff in this issue, including the conclusion of Alan Gordon and Thomas Yeates’ “The Once and Future Tarzan,” much-welcome “Milk and Cheese” and “The Murder Family” episodes by Evan Dorkin, a new chapter of Carla Speed McNeil’s “Finder: Third World,” a text story by Andrew Vachss with art by Geof Darrow, and much, much more.

Verdict: Thumbs up. There were a few stories I wasn’t real happy with — I thought the Tarzan tale, which ran very promisingly for the first two chapters, mostly fell apart in a maze of too many characters at the end (though I still think this would be grand as an ongoing comic), Colin Lorimer’s “UXB” was just too weird for me to take seriously, and I’ve never managed to enjoy any “Criminal Macabre” story. But aside from that, everything else rocked the house. M.J. Butler and Mark Wheatley’s “Skulltar” continues to be very funny, “Finder” and “The Massive” are always wonderful, Vachss’ “Dead Reliable” is a nice little study on growing old, feeling desperate, and embracing amorality, and new Dorkin “Milk and Cheese” and “Murder Family” stories are always worth celebrating.

Wonder Woman #7

Well, this one was just deeply problematic.

Wonder Woman, Hermes, and Lennox enlist the aid of gun-toting prettyboy Eros to help find the kidnapped Zola. Eros takes them to see the monstrous weapons-crafter Hephaestus to ask for weapons and passage to Hell to confront Hades. Diana learns that Hephaestus’ minions are all male children of the Amazons — and her decision to free her half-brothers leads to more surprises and revelations.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Most of the story is fine. The art is gorgeous. But what others have said about the revelations about the Amazons — that they periodically take to the seas to commandeer ships, rape and murder the crews, bear their children, and either kill the baby boys or sell them into slavery — is entirely correct — it turns the Amazons into despicable monsters and calls into question Wonder Woman’s intellect, as she was apparently unaware of this part of her homeland’s past. It pushes past my suspension of disbelief and just turns the Amazons into something they were never meant to be. It’s too bad, because most of this issue is fine — but this just ends up wrecking my ability to enjoy the story.

Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #1

Here’s the first issue of a new Vertigo series written by Selwyn Seyfu Hinds and illustrated by Denys Cowan. It focuses on Dominique Laveau, an apparent descendant of legendary voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, who finds herself on the run from almost everyone in New Orleans, including gangsters, voodoo practitioners, magic gunmen, monsters, and even the loa themselves. Why is everyone after her, and what secret powers does she possess?

Verdict: Thumbs down. Sorry, but it bored me. Too much pointless running around, no significant character background for Dominique, too many supporting characters getting introduced and killed in the same panel, and just much too much passivity from the heroine. Why should I care about Dominique when all she can do is run away from everything? Why should I care about the setting when we get absolutely no background or explanations about what’s going on? I’ll probably give this another chance to impress me in the second issue — but it’s got a steep hill to climb.

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Dysfunctional Family Circus

The Goon #38

Eric Powell takes a break from the usual mad shenanigans to give us a look at the life of Kizzie, the Goon’s aunt, a circus strongwoman who raised him from infancy. We follow her from childhood, contending with the jeers of her schoolmates and the thuggishness of her brother Rooney, as she grows up to be a young woman, unusually strong from working on the family farm. She breaks her engagement with her fiancee because she unwisely falls for a conceited trapeze artist. Despite getting a job as the strongwoman, things don’t go well for Kizzie — she has an abortion, her beau dies, she quits to get a factory job, and Rooney makes a return to foist off his unwanted child on her. Something familiar about this little tyke…

Verdict: Thumbs up. This one is just plain glorious. All I can think to say about it — just plain glorious. Why ain’t more of you guys reading “The Goon”?

Batman #7

If you thought we were going to get a break from the Court of Owls, you were way, way wrong. Batman gets his heart restarted by some random fangirl with a car battery and jumper cables — something that seems medically unsound — and makes his way back to the Batcave, where he learns that Alfred has already acquired the body of the Talon, the assassin who’d almost killed him. After an autopsy, Bruce reveals to Dick Grayson that the Talon’s body was infused with electrum, which allowed the Court to resurrect him with electricity any time he was killed. And he also learns that the Talon was Dick Grayson’s great-grandfather, and that Dick was initially chosen to be a Talon, too, before he was orphaned. And the Court is hardly down for the count — they plan to wage war on all of Gotham City.

Verdict: Ehh, I really don’t know. It all seems fine, well-written, you name it. I’m just not so fond of the way the Court of Owls is turning into a way to rewrite Bat-continuity willy-nilly.

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – The Long Death #2

Johann Kraus has let his obsession with capturing or killing Ben Daimio get away from him. While he was stalking Daimio for destroying Johann’s old temporary body while he’d transformed into a jaguar demon, Daimio ends up killing almost an entire BPRD squad. He leads a small squad back into the wilderness, and they meet up with a wendigo, which uncharacteristically does not attack them. When the squad comes across the bloody remains of a family slaughtered while camping, Johann is able to possess one of the more intact corpses to take the battle to Daimio, with the aid of a magic dagger.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A bloody character study of two people who have slid a long way down the scale from their best moments. Excellent suspense, very nice creepiness, and outstanding art, too.

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Friday Night Fights: Breakneck Bear!

It’s the end of the work-week, and we’re all needing a break from work and responsibility and everything else. What’s the best way to start the weekend? Obviously, you gotta start with… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from November 1984’s Marvel Fanfare #17, with a story by David Anthony Kraft and Tony Salmons. The Hulk is out roaming in the woods, causes some mayhem, accidentally starts a fire, and starts a stampede of animals, all the while complaining that all he wants is peace and quiet. And once a panicked bear attacks old Jade Jaws… well, things get even worse.

Holy bananas, the Hulk just gave that bear the Gwen Stacy treatment!

Smooth move, Green Genes. Maybe you wanna go off somewhere and stomp on some kittens, too?

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Farewell, Tiny Titans

Tiny Titans #50

The final issue of this glorious, hilarious series. You have no idea how depressed I’ve been about this.

What do we get in the last issue? No big tearjerking farewell, no complex, series-ending plotline — we get what “Tiny Titans” always did best — lots of hijinx. Beast Boy continues to try to win Terra’s heart and decides he’ll need to relaunch himself — with a rocket — to get her to love him. Meanwhile, Superboy and Supergirl get some new costumes, Alfred shows off the awards the series has won, and Superman himself shows up. We also get a short preview of “Superman Family Adventures,” the new all-ages comic that Art Baltazar and Franco will be working on.

Verdict: Thumbs up. But I actually do have one quibble, because this issue really should’ve been three or four times as long as normal, just to make sure we’d be able to see as many characters as possible and give them all a proper farewell. As it is, most of the characters we see just show up for brief cameos. But having said that, yeah, this is another wonderful, awesome issue of “Tiny Titans” and thus a perfect way to end the series. We get lots of reminders of some of the high points — the “Little Archie” crossover, Batcow, the sideways snarky comments about goings-on in the DCU — and altogether, it’s just a great little issue of a great all-ages series.

I hope you all got to read and enjoy it — and if you didn’t, fer cryin’ out loud, go get the trade paperbacks. And thanks, Baltazar and Franco, for fifty issues of comics joy.

The Amazing Spider-Man #682

After Spider-Man takes down a supervillain with some tech inspired by his arch-foe, the Green Goblin, including some Spider-Bombs and a Spider-Glider, he gets a reminder that the work he’s been doing at Horizon Labs as Peter Parker has had a powerful effect on the world, too. Not everyone agrees — Mayor J. Jonah Jameson wants Horizon Labs shut down permanently — and far away, Doctor Octopus, slowly dying and wrapped up in more cybernetic machinery than ever, is plotting the world’s downfall with the rest of the Sinister Six. He uses satellites secretly placed in orbit to magnify the effects of the sun’s rays and accelerate climate change worldwide. What does he want to make all this go away? He wants the world to acknowledge him as one of the planet’s greatest geniuses before he dies — and in exchange, he will use his satellites to actually reverse global warming. Will the world play along? Will Spidey be able to get the Avengers to deal with Doc Ock as a serious threat?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a fine story, even if I really can’t buy Doc Ock as a guy willing to pull of a global scheme like this, especially since he’s always been focused on more down-to-earth supervillainy. But the art is good, the dialogue pops nicely, there are some nice, small character moments scattered around the issue, and the plot moves along at a good pace, too.

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House of Frankenstein

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #7

The Humanids — artificial life forms that run S.H.A.D.E.’s headquarters — have revolted, thanks to rogue programming from Brother Eye, and they’ve set free the monstrous prisoners in the brig. By the time Frankenstein and the Creature Commandos bust in, they’re threatening to kill Lady Frankenstein, Dr. Mazursky, Ray Palmer, and Father Time. Of course, at that point, there’s fightin’ galore. Velcoro and Griffith pay a visit to the Armory, Dr. Palmer shows off some shrinking abilities (but says wearing a costume is “not my style”), and one of the monsters manages to hack off Khalis’ head. But there was one prisoner who managed to escape the HQ, and that’s bad news for everyone.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent action — and best of all, Frankenstein’s dialogue is finally starting to sound like the dialogue Grant Morrison used for the character in the “Seven Soldiers” miniseries. If Jeff Lemire can keep that style of poetic rage going — wait, what’s that? Lemire is leaving this book soon? Dagnabbit.

Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #3

The Black Flame, a magical fiend able to burn anything with mystical black fire, is running wild in the city at the behest of gangster Arnie Wald. Fire crews can’t put out the fires, and Lobster Johnson and his friends can’t kill him. Even worse, he’s got sorcerers on his side, and they’re going to try to find out all of the Lobster’s secrets — including where to find reporter Cindy Tynan.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Beautiful art by Tonci Zonjic, and excellent storytelling from Mike Mignola and John Arcudi. Wonderfully tense stuff, with the right kind of hopeless outlook you need for the middle chapter of a miniseries.

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Golden Dreams

The Unwritten #35

Hmmm, how much can I say about this issue without spoiling all the good stuff? Probably not a lot. Tom Taylor has his great confrontation with Pullman. There’s some fighting and quite a bit of talking. Pullman reveals who he really is, who Tom really is, and what he really wants. The Leviathan makes its return, and we lose two of our cast members.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A masterful ending to this storyarc, and to quite a few other things in this series. Don’t miss it — and if you haven’t been reading this series, I really don’t know why you’ve been skipping it.

Batwoman #7

Batwoman finally catches up to the hook-handed madman who attacked Bette Kane weeks ago, and when she tears the hook out of his arm, she gets a major surprise when the hook itself starts talking to her. Meanwhile, while Jacob Kane continues to try to get through to his niece Bette, lost in a coma after being attacked, and while Cameron Chase of the D.E.O. tries to get Kate Kane to break a prisoner out of the Gotham P.D. under her girlfriend’s nose, Falchion, head of Medusa, assembles a team of urban legends with the aid of his wizard Maro — the aforementioned Hook, Killer Croc transmogrified into a mutated sewer alligator, La Llorona, the Crying Woman, who has been a villain in previous issues of this comic, and the truly terrifying Bloody Mary, summoned from a mirror and out of your nightmares. Don’t believe she’s scary?

Yeah, that’ll definitely keep me from chanting her name into a mirror.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Still the best looking comic on the stands — and it’s too bad that Amy Reeder will soon be departing this series. Besides that, we get excellent scenes with Jacob Kane, good relationship stuff with Maggie Sawyer, and Falchion’s amazingly creepy urban legends. Good stuff, and you better be reading this.

Demon Knights #7

We get an all-out, wall-to-wall battle in this issue. Jason Blood goes to Hell to find the one substance that can revive Madame Xanadu. Vandal Savage turns on Mordred and the Questing Queen to steal from them and save his own hide. The Horsewoman seeks aid in the nearest city. The Shining Knight faces the Queen in battle, and Xanadu duels Mordred. How will this battle turn out for everyone?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The action here is almost nonstop, and it all works out very, very well.

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Friday Night Fights: Harpy Harm!

Alright, people, I ain’t got time to mess around, so let’s jump right into this. It’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from January 2008’s The Goon #20 by Eric Powell, as the Goon and Franky have to deal with a mid-air attack by a couple of harpies.

That oughtta do it for tonight. Now get out there and have an awesome weekend — I’ll see youse mugs back here on Monday.

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