Archive for May, 2012

Alien Abduction

Dark Horse Presents #12

Alright, what do we got in this newest issue of Dark Horse’s anthology series? We’ve got an Aliens story by John Layman and Sam Kieth (with not too many xenomorphs, but we do get a hallucinatory teddy bear). We got “The Creep,” a story by John Arcudi and Jonathan Case about a private detective with a case of acromegaly, Carla Speed McNeil’s “Finder: Third World,” Steve Niles and Christopher Mitten’s “Criminal Macabre,” Evan Dorkin’s “House of Fun” (featuring the Eltingville Club), Dean Motter’s “Mister X,” Mike Baron and Steve Rude’s “Nexus: Bad Moon Rising,” Mike Russell’s very funny “Sabertooth Vampire,” and a bit of fiction by Harlan Ellison, with art by Richard Corben.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of good stuff, nearly all of it running at very high quality. Standouts include Sam Kieth’s artwork in the “Aliens” chapter, the Eltingville Club getting humiliated during a zombie walk, the Ellison story, and as always, the newest chapter of “Finder” by Carla Speed McNeil.

All Star Western #9

Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham have been captured by the August 7 terrorist group and are being sent to die on a boatload of innocent immigrants — but wait, it was all a ruse! Arkham let himself by captured by the police on purpose so he could mislead them about Hex’s plans. That gives the two of them time to foil the bombing plot while Nighthawk and Cinnamon beat the snot out of the August 7’s ringleaders. There’s a very brief cameo appearance of one of the Court of Owls’ Talon assassins — just so DC can stick a “Night of the Owls” banner on the cover — then we jump back to Gotham City so we can re-introduce one of my favorite characters from Jonah Hex’s supporting cast. All that plus the continued adventures of Nighthawk and Cinnamon as they hunt down the bandit who killed Cinnamon’s father.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Partly, I’m just amazed that Dr. Arkham managed to be of some use to the plot for once — whether he’ll get any more competent or go back to his usual screwup ways, I suppose we’ll have to find out. Everything else in this comic works well, with the exception of the from-out-of-nowhere Court of Owls silliness…

Today’s Cool Links:

Comments (1)

Hero’s Creed

Hero Comics 2012

So it’s Memorial Day — a day when we traditionally salute our military heroes. Instead, today let’s talk about some other heroes familiar to all of us comics readers. No, not superheroes — the creators of our comics.

I know we’ve talked several times about the Hero Initiative. They’re a not-for-profit charity that focuses on providing assistance to comic creators, artists, and writers who are having serious financial troubles, whether because of age, illness, or simply because of difficulty finding work. They’ll help pay medical expenses, rent, even help creators find paying work in the comics industry.

Much of the history of comics has been filled with sad stories about comics creators who didn’t get paid very much for the work they did, or who didn’t receive pensions or retirement benefits or health insurance because they were freelancers. In fact, that’s still a problem today — it’s not uncommon for for an active freelancer to have health issues and have serious trouble finding the money to pay for the treatment they or their families need. There are all kinds of things that can leave comics creators unable to work in the industry and facing hard times without a safety net. The Hero Initiative does what they can to make things better. They’ve taken up the cause of taking care of the heroes who helped create the hobby we all enjoy.

They’ll put out a benefit comic about once a year to raise funding and awareness — they tend to focus on a combination of stand-alone feature stories combined with shorter comics in which creators tell about how the Hero Initiative has helped them. So we get an “Elephantmen” story by Dave Sim and Richard Starkings, a story about the Red Star by Christian Gossett and Brennan Wagner, and the piece you’ll really want to pick this up for: a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story by Kevin Eastman himself. Coupled with those are short autobiographical works by Tom Ziuko, Russ Heath, Alan Kupperberg, and Robert Washington — they’ve all gone through lean times and have been able to rely on assistance from Hero Initiative to get back on their feet.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Eastman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story is really entirely excellent, but I think the real stars here are the creators who tell their own stories about how Hero helped them keep a roof over their head and food on the table. Their stories do the heavy lifting to demonstrate all the good that the Hero Initiative does for the heroes who created comics for us. They’re a great cause — why not help them out by sending them a few bucks?

The Unwritten #37

Things have changed for our heroes and for the world — Pullman is dead, Tom Taylor and Richie Savoy are both famous, Lizzie Hexam is dead — and fiction is disappearing from the world. More people look on Tom as a messiah figure as he travels the world talking to fans, and the police are taking an interest. As Tom’s tour takes him to Australia, we get acquainted with police detective Sandra Patterson, who’s trying to track a string of disappearances linked to a cult of Tom Taylor worshipers. She goes undercover hoping to flush out the truth — but she’s quickly discovered, ejected, and beaten — and she misses the chance to witness the cult’s magic.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Few appearances of the comic’s stars, but the story moves forward fine on its own. It’s an intriguing concept, too — what happens to a world that finds itself unable to remember stories anymore? A combination of depression and madness — slow at first, but accelerating as time passes. It’ll be interesting to see where this is all going.

Comments off

Friday Night Fights: Fist of the Northstar!

So Marvel has just announced that Northstar is about to get married — which means one of the Big Two has finally caught up to Archie Comics! But I’m glad for Northstar anyway, and as long as Marvel treats the marriage respectfully and not as a cheap event, I’ll be happy. And to recognize that Northstar is a fighter, not just a lover, we’re dedicating this edition of Friday Night Fights to him.

So here is 1991’s Marvel Comics Presents #92 by Karl Bollers, Antonio Matias, and Joe Madureira putting the spotlight on the superspeedy Northstar and his fight against a gun-happy terrorist.

Wow, early Joe Madureira art looked not very much like classic-era Joe Madureira art. And holy schnooks, that’s one heck of a ponytail you’re sporting, Mr. Northstar!

Comments (1)

Back in Business

Batman, Inc. #1

Grant Morrison’s “Batman, Inc.” series gets a brand new Number One, though as far as any of us can tell, the old “Batman, Inc.” storyline continues on the same course it was on before. Batman and Robin (Bruce and Damian Wayne this time) chase a goat-masked gunman into a slaughterhouse — and promptly find themselves in the middle of an ambush as more masked thugs attack. And by the end of the fight, it’s revealed that Leviathan, the shadowy global crime organization, has targeted Damian for assassination. While Leviathan works on cementing its hold over Gotham, all the heroes who seemingly died in the last issue — Batwing, the Outsiders, the Hood, Gaucho, and more — meet and reveal that they’re now part of Batman’s secret army. But can Batman save Robin from death? Or are there just too many assassins gunning for him?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great writing by Morrison, great art by Chris Burnham. Lightning-fast action, outstanding twists and turns. Great dialogue for the squabbling Dynamic Duo. And it’s great that, with the pre-Reboot Outsiders we see here, this story is still set in the original, proper DC Universe.

And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that this panel was my very favorite in any comic in the last month:

And as others have noted, this definitely means that Grant Morrison was a fan of the “Tiny Titans” series.

So yeah, definitely adding this one to my pull list.

Justice League Dark #9

I didn’t enjoy the first issue of this, but I decided to give it another shot. Jeff Lemire is the comic’s new writer, and while I haven’t yet decided whether I like *all* his stuff, I’ve got enough good impressions of him to try this comic again.

So Steve Trevor, special liaison for the Justice League, calls on John Constantine with a special mission — find out what Felix Faust is up to and retrieve the magical item he’s using to empower himself, and in exchange, Constantine will get ten minutes in the Black Room — a secret repository for powerful magical items — to take whatever he can carry. So Constantine puts together a team — Zatanna, Andrew Bennett from “I, Vampire,” Deadman, and Black Orchid — and they go out to bust up Faust and his cult. But will the new “Justice League Dark” be ready for the item Felix Faust is hiding?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting much from it, but it was far more entertaining, readable, and engaging than what I saw of the first issue of the series. I’m more than willing to pick up some future issues, so I think that’s enough for me to judge it a success.

The Amazing Spider-Man #686

Dr. Octopus’s satellites are going to burn the Earth to a cinder, and they’ve already started on Silver Sable’s homeland of Symkaria — but wait, it’s all an illusion created by the special effects wizardry of Mysterio! While the Chameleon masquerades as Doc Ock to battle the Wall-Crawler, the real Otto discovers the deceit and takes over Chameleon’s remote-control disguise so he can fight Spidey himself. Luckily, the suit is just a cheap imitation and can’t stand up ti Spidey, Silver Sable, and the Black Widow — and Spidey manages to make a deal with Mysterio to get him to join the good guys, at least temporarily. So the Sinister Six has been depleted down to just Doc Ock and the Rhino — unless Octavius has managed to acquire some new, unexpected minions…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent story all around — writing, art, dialogue, humor, action, plot twists, and just overall braininess. There has not been a single bad issue of this storyarc, and that’s pretty impressive.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • The loony One Million Mom group (which doesn’t include anywhere near one million mothers — just 47,000 homophobic, faux-Christian bigots) has already gotten its butt kicked by Ellen DeGeneres and Archie Andrews and is now going to get its butt whupped by Northstar and a DC hero to be named later.
  • Greg Rucka keeps giving great interviews. Here he is talking about why he writes strong female characters.
  • Snell digs up every jungle prince and princess he can find.

Comments (4)

Space Bunnies

Saucer Country #3

Michael Alvarado, ex-husband of New Mexico governor and Democratic presidential candidate Arcadia Alvarado, has gone to see his not-entirely-ethical hypnotherapist, who is helping him relive his last abduction experience. Michael’s terrified subconscious insists on seeing the aliens as giant bunnies — but before he gets too far into his account, the governor’s bodyguard bursts in, knocks Michael around, and hauls him out. Meanwhile, disgraced professor Joshua Kidd meets Harry Brooks, the governor’s chief of staff, and Chloe Saunders, the Republican consultant working for the Alvarado campaign, immediately proves his bona fides on the question of alien abductions and gets a lot of his suspicions confirmed when he meets the governor herself. And the shady hypnotherapist breaks a few patient confidentiality agreements by calling up a Limbaughesque conspiracy-minded talk radio host to spill the beans on the Alvarados’ experiences. And Michael is about to get one more abduction experience, too…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Holy zippers, I’m loving this series so much. It’s fun for me, as a former New Mexican, to watch the setting details from the Land of Enchantment flash by, and we’re about to get even more fun background on UFO abductee culture. The art is fun, and there are just trainloads of excellent weirdness getting dropped into our laps. Are you reading this? You need to be reading this. Go read this now.

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – The Devil’s Engine #1

Andrew Devon, estranged agent of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, is traveling with Fenix, a girl who might be psychic and might just be crazy. They’re getting ready to board a train that will take them to the BPRD’s headquarters when Fenix gets one of her feelings and decides they shouldn’t ride the train after all. Unfortunately, her dog is already packed into cargo, and she won’t go anywhere without him. Elsewhere, the diabolical Nazi-loving Zinco corporation is up to its old tricks — including hanging out with Nazis who should’ve died decades ago. And Fenix’s premonitions about the train continue as the trip goes from bad to worse.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice to see Fenix again. Not so nice to see Andrew Devon, who’s still a jerk. The developing mood of doom is very well-done, too — we don’t get anything quite as horrific as the cover suggests, but it’s still looking to be a hard road forward for our heroes.

Today’s Cool Links:

Comments off

The Science of Awesomeness

Atomic Robo Presents: Real Science Adventures #2

I got the first issue of this soooo late I didn’t even figure it was worth reviewing, but the second issue got here on time, so here ’tis. It’s a bunch of different stories about Atomic Robo, all written by Brian Clevinger, with art by different creators. Most of them are pretty short, and several are multi-parters, with a chapter each issue. We’ve got one story starring the Sparrow, British secret agent, during WWII; another with Robo in 1924 fighting off the ghost of Rasputin; another with Robo learning martial arts from Bruce Lee, and one more with Robo teaming up with, of all things, the characters from the “Team Fortress 2” computer game to capture the legendary Yonkers Devil.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I enjoyed everything — and got a nice surprise from the Team Fortress cameos. My only disappointment here was that there wasn’t another Dr. Dinosaur story, like there was in the first issue. Dr. Dinosaur is the greatest comic character ever.

Avengers Academy #30

During the “Avengers vs. X-Men” crossover, a lot of the X-students are rooming at Avengers Academy — supposedly to keep them safe, but the X-kids have strong suspicions that they’re actually prisoners at the school. Adding to the stress is the fact that Sebastian Shaw — longtime X-Men foe who has now been mindwiped — has escaped from custody and is likely to come gunning for everyone to get revenge on Emma Frost, the woman who he’s just recently learned is responsible for his amnesia. The teachers decide not to tell the students about Shaw’s escape, partly to avoid a panic and partly because they’re worried the X-students will side with him. While X-23 bonds with Hazmat and Finesse, Shaw is busy taking down all of the teachers. How will the tensions between the groups play out, and how will Shaw use those tensions to his advantage?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good story, good action, good dialogue. Great characterization for everyone, but particularly X-23, Hazmat, and Finesse. This is definitely one of my favorite team comics — hope you’re buying it, ’cause we want to make sure good stories get fan support.

Wonder Woman #9

Diana is trapped in Hell, because she agreed to stay if Hades would let Zola go free. Hermes, Hephaestus, Eros, Lennox, and Zola make plans to return to Hell to rescue her, while Wonder Woman prepares for her wedding to Hades. But does Wonder Woman really love Hades, even after getting shot by Eros’ (ahem) love guns? Or is she faking it for Zola’s sake? And what test will Hades and Strife devise to determine her feelings?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This issue really shines in the small details and surprises: elderly, blood-splattered War; the revelation of Persephone; the introduction of Aphrodite; Hades’ bloody throne; and especially Wonder Woman’s wedding dress, part beautiful, part superheroic, part fetishistic, part gory.

Today’s Cool Links:

Comments off

Friday Night Fights: Wayne of Pain!

No clever introduction tonight! Let’s get right to… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle is from a Huntress backup story in August 1982’s Wonder Woman #295 by Paul Levitz, Joe Staton, and Jerry Ordway, as the Huntress — who was, at this point in continuity, Helena Wayne of Earth-2 — beats the snot out of a thug hiding out in a theater.

No clever outro either! The weekend awaits!

Comments (1)

Devil Without a Cause

Daredevil #13

Matt Murdock and his date were just ambushed by a member of the criminal organization Black Spectre — but wasn’t Black Spectre destroyed, thanks to the info on Daredevil’s Omega Drive? Daredevil heads for Times Square — with the Omega Drive around his neck — to fight Black Spectre, and he’s soon attacked by the other members of Megacrime — Hydra, A.I.M., the Secret Empire, and Agence Byzantine. And then they’re all attacked by the fully revitalized Black Spectre, which quickly escapes with the Omega Drive. It’s a humiliating defeat for Daredevil… or is it? All that, plus Foggy Nelson finds something horrifying hidden in Matt Murdock’s desk at his law firm.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Awesome action from beginning to end. Intrigue, mystery, multiple amazing plot twists. How good was this? It was so good, I had to go back and re-read the comic twice before I realized how awful the artwork was. Seriously, Marvel, this comic used to have the best writing and best art out there — don’t go short-changing the artwork on this brilliant comic masterwork, a’ight?

Batwoman #9

Batwoman and Sune deliver some whupass to the evil wizard Falchion after going undercover to track down the secrets on his yacht — and maybe get a lot closer as well? But it’s not all sunshine and happiness — Bette Kane’s condition in the hospital takes a turn for the worse.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I don’t think Trevor McCarthy is as good as Amy Reeder or J.H. Williams III himself — but he’s not bad, and this comic is still pretty much the best looking one on the stands. Nice drama and action, plenty of intrigue — and I really hope Bette Kane comes out of all this okay…

Today’s Cool Links:

Comments off

Blade of Frankenstein

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #9

Frankenstein and Nina Mazursky get sent out on a missing persons case connected to Animal Man — the last person to see Buddy Baker has gone missing. It’s not long before Frank and  Nina locate their quarry, and he’s dead — in fact, he’s been taken over by the Rot, the dead counterpart to the Green and the Red, as seen in “Animal Man” and “Swamp Thing.” Frankenstein at least seems to be immune to the contaminating death-touch of the Rot, but the undead horrors are spreading faster, and neither swords nor flamethrowers do anything to slow them down. Does S.H.A.D.E. have anything in its arsenal that can stop the Rot?

Verdict: Ehhh, I don’t know. The story is **okay** but no great shakes. I wasn’t any kind of a fan of “Swamp Thing,” which was just infested with crap about the Rot. I hope we’re not going to start seeing this stuff in more than just a few isolated comics…

Alabaster: Wolves #2

Dancy Flammarion has just finished killing a werewolf — and now she’s worried she’s gotten a fever from her injuries. Not lycanthropy — as far as she knows, you can only catch werewolfery from a bite. Nevertheless, she’s stuck in a deserted town, having fever dreams, talking to birds, worried that she could die from her fever. She breaks into an old drugstore to find some medicine and goes off to find a nice, safe church where she can rest and recuperate. Too bad it’s been taken over by all the local monsters…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very fun story, fantastic character work, too. Dancy is a great character, and that’s all there is to it. Excellent action, and pretty good mood, too. I’m enjoying this quite a bit.

Fatale #5

Walt Booker, desperate to get his cure for cancer, betrays Josephine, knocks her out, and takes her to the demonic crime boss, Bishop, who plans to sacrifice Jo and Hank Raines — and likely, to stiff Booker on his cancer cure. But Booker may not be as utterly untrustworthy as he looks. Does he have a chance to strike a blow against the immortal Bishop, save Jo and Hank, and come out of all this smelling like a rose?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Hard-boiled action and magic-charged horror. I am so glad I was able to get this series — it took a few weeks for my local shop to get this in stock — because it has been so much fun to read. Great writing, great art, can’t wait for more.

Comments off

Another Bunch of Owls

Batgirl #9

First of all, that right there has to be the worst cover of the week. No one jumps that way, especially not elite assassins. The only people who jump like that is people who are being drawn by artists who never learned anything about anatomy.

As the Court of Owls declares war on Gotham City, Batgirl meets up with one of the organization’s super-assassins called the Talons — she was a little girl who was orphaned and disfigured in the only Japanese balloon bombing attack to make it all the way across the Pacific Ocean. So this Talon attacks Gotham with more balloon bombs and effortlessly smacks Batgirl around. A member of the Court of Owls tries to keep Commissioner Gordon from interfering with the Talons’ attacks. Will the Gordons be able to stop the Owls’ assault on the city?

Verdict: Thumbs down. The origin story for this individual assassin is just far too complicated and involved — I wouldn’t mind so much if this was going to be a recurring character, but I think we can guess that she’ll never be seen again after this issue. I also never really understood why she spared Batgirl’s life the first time — or how the perpetually-outmatched Barbara Gordon managed to beat her the second time.

Batman #9

Meanwhile, in yet another part of this “Night of the Owls” crossover, Batman is wearing a suit of armor and fighting off a bunch of Talons inside the Batcave while Alfred tries to lower to cave’s temperature as low as possible so the assassins’ healing factor will stop working. After he gets rid of that set of villains (with the aid of robot dinosaur in the Batcave), Batman heads out into Gotham to try to save the lives of some of the citizens who’ve been targeted by the Talons, including businessman Lincoln March. There’s also a flashback story starring Jarvis Pennyworth, Alfred’s father and the Wayne family’s first butler.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I’m just not feeling that this new crossover is worth anyone’s time. A bunch of random fighting, villains who aren’t impressive (I mean, really — assassins who stop functioning when it gets cold? In a city in the northeast where it snows at least half the year? The Court of Owls is dumb as bricks), and a flashback that doesn’t make much sense.

Morning Glories #18

By the way, that’s probably the second-worst comic cover of the week. Nice and artistic, but come on, people, this is too dark and shadowed for anyone to even see the title, much less get any notice on a shelf with dozens of more brightly colored comics…

Jun — or Hisao, as we’ve learned is his real name — is our focus for this issue, combining flashbacks to his younger days back to his current life at Morning Glory Academy. He has another confrontation with his hostile twin brother, but is defended by a fellow student named Guillaume — a boy who Hisao knew — and fell in love with — when he was younger. But events are advancing quickly, and someone has decided a sacrifice is needed to set things right again.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Almost every time we see Hisao in this comic, I end up getting more confused. It doesn’t help that Guillaume — a character who appears out of nowhere — is suddenly boosted into an important quasi-main character, the only one able to get through Hisao’s notoriously stolid demeanor. I didn’t feel emotionally caught up in the story the way I have in previous issues.

Today’s Cool Links:

Comments off