Archive for December, 2013

Friday Night Fights: Bang Bang!

Well, the weekend’s here. It’s about time, too. It’s been a rough few weeks, and we got more rough weeks ahead, and I’m really feeling the need for random comic violence. So let’s just jump straight into things with… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from March 1980’s Batman #321 by the dream team of Len Wein, Walter Simonson, and Dick Giordano. The Joker is up to a lot of his usual shenanigans — capturing Gotham citizens, tying them up, threatening them with death, making unfunny jokes — but all the unfunny gets even unfunnier when one of his henchmen forgets to laugh at the boss’s punch lines…





Ahh, the old flag gun gag! The classics never go out of style!

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Love and Secrets


Astro City #7

It’s the beginning of a new storyarc focusing on Winged Victory, the Samaritan, and the Confessor. While Winged Victory’s and Samaritan’s relationship seems to be going swimmingly, someone is plotting against the heroine — a group of supervillains have claimed to be working directly for her. Winged Victory has always been a controversial figure in the world of Astro City, and the media is completely eager to believe she’s a secret supervillain. Mixed into all this is an abused teenaged boy who wants to learn self-defense from Winged Victory, plus we learn W.V.’s secret origin.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A great story, wonderful art, great characterization, and an excellent mystery. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where this is going to lead over the next few months.


Batman: Li’l Gotham #9

Batman and Robin have to track down Clayface as he hides out in the Gotham City Comic Con. Can the Dynamic Duo find the shapeshifting villain in the maze of cosplayers, and will Robin be able to hunt down all the cool toys he wants? And in the second story, we meet Jenna Duffy, the Carpenter for Gotham’s underworld. She’s trying to take a vacation day, but all the villains keep bugging her to rebuild stuff wrecked by Batman. Is she ever going to get the free time she needs?

Verdict: Thumbs up, of course. The art is great, the stories are fun. And there’s a cool little bonus at the end of the first story for anyone bummed about the nonexistence of their favorite characters in the New 52.


Mighty Avengers #4

The Inhumans’ city of Attilan has crashed in New York, exposing people around the world who have some Inhuman ancestry to the mutagenic Terrigen mists, and various unsavory characters want to get their hands on anything hidden in the city’s ruins. Meanwhile, the Falcon joins up with the Mighty Avengers, Spider Hero adopts the costumed identity of Ronin (even though we all know he’s actually Blade), and the Superior Spider-Man has decided he wants control of the team.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice story, fun dialogue and characterization, some excellent humor, too. The worst thing about it is, of course, the fact that no one has fired Greg Land from Marvel yet.


Watson and Holmes #6

Someone has killed the wife of Dexter Wainwright, a prominent NYC politician who’s been an inspiration to many in Harlem but whose campaign is plagued by money troubles. Holmes and Watson are on the case — while Holmes suspects Wainwright, Watson wants to see him freed from suspicion because he’s done so much for the community. A key link in the case proves to be a woman named Dominique Jiminez who is being pursued by the Russian mob. What’s her connection to Wainwright, and who is the killer?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A very well-done mystery, nice characterization and dialogue, and a excellent author’s note at the end in which Brandon M. Easton talks about how and why he wrote this particular story. I’m really pleased with how thoroughly enjoyable this series has been.

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Holiday Gift Bag: Bandette

I got so much stuff I want to review for the Gift Bag, and so little time left before Christmas, so I’m gonna try to get all the reviews I can. Today, we’re going to talk about Bandette, Volume One: Presto! by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover.


That’s our lead character up there — Bandette, agile, laughing, clever, somewhat deranged Parisian thief. We meet her for the first time while she’s robbing an underworld figure of some small Rembrandt portraits — and she’s soon on the run from his heavily armed guards. Perhaps she could escape from them on her own, but instead she enlists the aid of her Urchins — friends ranging from little children to ballerinas — to get the bad guys thrown off the scent.

And even though Bandette is a notorious — yet daring and celebrated — thief, she is pursued by the police — so that they can ask her for help! Her skills are so remarkable that she can take down a gang of armed robbers without difficulty! Is there nothing Bandette cannot accomplish? Well, perhaps she cannot best the famed thief Monsieur. Perhaps she cannot avoid the assassins of Finis. Perhaps she cannot avoid the blade of Matadori. Perhaps she cannot vanquish the heart of the hapless Daniel.

Ha ha! How droll! Of course Bandette can do all these things!

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is a wonderfully charming comic. Can I say it’s delightful and still keep my street cred? I don’t care, I’ll say it anyway. It’s delightful. Completely delightful.

Colleen Coover’s artwork is fun and charismatic and kinetic and joyful and dadgummed delightful. Her artwork will make you fall in love with Bandette and Daniel and Monsieur and Matadori and the ballerinas and even gruff Inspector Belgique. If you love Colleen Coover’s art, this should be on your wish list.

And Paul Tobin’s writing is equally fun and charismatic and joyful and delightful. He stuffs Bandette and all her friends (and her rivals, too) with so much personality and life. It’s an extraordinarily French comic. Well, I’m not sure how authentically French it may be — probably not very authentically French at all. But it sure as heck feels French, and you’ll spend the next few days after reading it wishing you could eat in small cafes and looking at pictures of Paris and muttering all the French words you know under your breath. It’s a grand and delightful piece of storytelling.

It strikes me that this is something that young female readers are going to enjoy greatly. Bandette is a wonderful, fun-loving heroine, and many of her friends and foes are girls, too. It’s got swashbuckling thievery, ballerinas, romance, and Paris — all things which many girls like. But on the other hand, I know this book is also very well-loved by many male readers as well.

It’s definitely the kind of comic that should be great for readers of all ages and all genders. So definitely go pick it up.

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Young Avengers #13

It’s the final battle between the Young Avengers and the monstrous shapeshifting mind-controlling Mother! And while Wiccan tries to become the Demiurge, and the teen heroes on Earth fight off the alternate-universe monster versions of the Young Avengers, the rest of the team is fighting Leah and her allies — who are all, somehow, different facets of Loki’s personality. No, I don’t understand how it works either, but once Teen Loki confesses, Leah and the rest of her stooges vanish, except for the zombie Patriot. But it may do no good, because Mother is about to eat Wiccan and take control of the universe. Can Hulkling manage to give his lover the pep talk he needs, or is this the end of everything?

Verdict: Thumbs up. No, I didn’t really understand all of it, but it was stylish and beautifully illustrated and fun, and it’s everything that great superhero comics should be — and we gotta enjoy the heck out of this series while it still lasts. So it’s worth getting, either now or whenever it gets released in trade paperback.


Velvet #2

Velvet has been framed for the death of several agents, and she’s on the run, trying to avoid getting apprehended or killed. Is there anyone she can trust, or is she completely on the outside now?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yes, it’s a very short plot description because nearly the entire story is devoted to epic chase scenes and fistfights. The action is absolutely fantastic, and you should be reading this one for that alone.


Hellboy in Hell #5

Hey, I thought this one ended months ago. Hellboy is still in Hell, and he meets up with some old gentleman who sold his soul to the Devil years ago. He and his friends agreed to the bargain on the condition that if they could answer the demon’s questions on the day he harvested them, they could go free. Can Hellboy figure out a way to get the old man’s soul free?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a nice story, and it’s got real live Mike Mignola artwork. Yeah, this really better be on your list, kid.


The Fox #2

So the Fox finds himself running around some bizarre crystalline world being menaced by a giant monster — until suddenly his wife Mae appears, wearing a costume similar to his and calling herself the She-Fox. And she pretty much kicks his ass all over the city. But wait a minute — wasn’t Paul in some crystal world just a minute ago? Who’s trying to gaslight him and how can he escape? Plus we get a short backup story about the Shield and how he spent part of World War II.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story’s fine and the art’s nice. The story and characters are growing on me, though I still wish this were a bit more epic and out of the usual Marvel/DC formula.

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Friday Night Fights: Cold Blood!

Well, looks like we’re back in the saddle again. The weekend’s here, I’m socked in by an ice storm, and it’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

In honor of the cold weather I’m suffering through, let’s pull tonight’s battle from March 2004’s The Flash #206 by Geoff Johns and Alberto C. Dose. Yeah, this is back in the days before Johns started to suck quite so relentlessly. Anyway, the Flash is trying to bring in Mr. Element, who’s been committing murders and framing Captain Cold for the crimes. Turns out the real Captain Cold isn’t too happy about that.





Let’s hope the power stays on here, or I’m gonna get flash-frozen myself…

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Holiday Gift Bag: Hip Hop Family Tree

It’s December, and that means everyone’s looking for more ideas for presents for family and friends, so let’s take another look into our Holiday Gift Bag for some more great stuff we can give. Today, we’re gonna check out Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor.


Piskor is a cartoonist best known for his Wizzywig graphic novel, and he’s been running this new series as a webcomic on the Boing Boing website. It’s basically a crash course on the history, culture, and personalities of hip hop, starting in the mid-1970s, when most of the elements of what we now call hip hop came together.

I’ll say, first, that I simultaneously want to call this a very brief history and a very in-depth history. It rockets through a dizzying number of musicians, both obscure and famous, more and more of them on almost every page, so it feels like we’re just hitting the high points — but on the other hand, the entire book covers a fairly short span of years. All those names were people who were pretty influential in the early days of hip hop, so while the book moves fast, it’s also covering almost every person who’d need to be covered.

And I’ll also say, as a white boy who grew up in rural New Mexico, that a lot of the stuff I read here was completely new to me — and completely amazing. The guy who invented record scratching did it completely by accident? Afrika Bambaataa was a gang leader who got into the music scene to steer his followers in more nonviolent directions? Fab Five Freddy and Chuck D both got into hip hop through art? Blondie helped push rap into the mainstream? They didn’t teach this stuff in school, and I kinda wish they did.

And it’s not just musicians we get to meet. We get introduced to a lot of producers and moguls — Russell Simmons, Sylvia Robinson, Rick Rubin, and tons of others, both small- and big-time. And a lot of the time, they come off a lot worse than any of the performers — they often seem greedier, more conniving, and sometimes less forward-thinking than the musicians. But they’re still super-important, because they were the ones putting rappers and DJs on records when no one else thought there was any point.

And we get a few micro-moments here and there — a few single nights or single encounters that get multiple pages devoted to them. Maybe the best of the bunch is the epic battle rap between Busy Bee Starski and Kool Moe Dee.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I seriously love this book so much. My musical education was stunted for years, thanks in part to access to little beyond Top 40 and AOR radio in my wayward youth, and this book introduced me to a lot of old-school performers I’d never heard much of. So it was really useful for helping me learn that I had so much I needed to learn.

Piskor’s art style is beautifully stylized here. His caricatures are often hilarious all on their own — Russell Simmons nearly never comes off well, Sylvia Robinson always wears the same outfit, Melle Mel always looks musclebound and furious, Grandmaster Flash always looks stylish, Afrika Bambaataa always looks gigantic and terrifying. Of course, they don’t look a lot like that in real life, but it’s a great way to characterize the major players quickly. The artwork is funny and expressive and just fun to look at.

And the book itself looks amazing. It’s an oversized comic — 9×13 inches, so you’ll have to store this one in the big bookcase. The pages are yellowed, like an old ’70s comic, and it’s even colored in old-school four-color style, so it almost feels like you’re reading a hip hop comic that was actually made in the ’70s.

It’s gonna be a perfect gift for the hip hop fan in your life — or for someone who you need to turn into a hip hop fan. Go pick it up.

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No Habla Espanol, Senor Goon!


The Goon #44

Well, it’s an issue almost entirely in Spanish. And there’s not a translation. And I don’t speak Spanish! Oh, Eric Powell, why must you hide the crazy stuff that Franky says away from me?

Basically, as far as I can tell, the Goon and Franky are smuggling hooch into Mexico. But they’ve also accidentally smuggled in a booze-loving monster called El Hombre Lagarto! Which I’m pretty sure means “The Lizard Man!” He also loves chickens! And pretty women! And singing! Soon enough, there is fighting. Also: Tom Waits and Li’l Jon.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yeah, I’da loved knowing what lunacy was being spouted by everyone. But even without translations, this was bizarre and hilarious and violent. And thus, it was The Goon.


Revival #15

While Dana Cypress tries to piece together the mystery of who murdered her sister Em, the local government is confiscating everyone’s livestock — there are fears that whatever created the revivers is in the groundwater — and in all the cattle and chickens in the area. And young reviver Jordan Borchardt — who, despondent over losing her chance to die again, went nuts and cut off her eyelids last issue — gets turned over to the CDC for study. And the local anti-government wingnut is working to start up his own private militia.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This series doesn’t often feel like a mystery to me — the horror is very, very strong in this one — but this one felt like a mystery. Lots of clues being dropped, lots of people thinking about what’s going on, lots of people scheming to get their way. It feels like a real noir in this issue.


Pretty Deadly #2

Well, a lot of stuff happens. And it looks pretty cool. And it might be well written. But dang it, I can’t tell for sure, ’cause I’m not really sure exactly what’s going on.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Listen, I don’t even know most of these characters’ names. How am I supposed to care what’s happening?

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Why City of Heroes never had a chance.
  • Okay, Alan Moore is trying to sell some projects, so of course he’s gonna say some controversial stuff. But to a not-insignificant degree, it’s kinda bullshit. You could say this stuff about any dedicated, passionate fanbase, from comics to gaming to music to sports to politics…
  • Long but enjoyable article about the infamous Max Headroom signal intrusion.

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Heaven and Hell


Itty Bitty Hellboy #4

Well, Hellboy and his pals went to Hell last issue — this time, they’re going to visit Heaven! Watch them learn to fly clouds, explore different words starting with “H,” meet lovestruck aliens, and steal lemonade. Meanwhile, Hecate and Baba Yaga give the two Rogers some groovy disco pants.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very, very cute cartooning and storytelling — and the bit with the Rogers’ pantslessness continues to be the series’ most hilarious running joke.


FF #14

Doctor Doom is plenty irritated that he can’t track the Future Foundation, and he’s taking it out on all his allies. The Foundation, meanwhile, is holed up in the Blue Area of the Moon, enlisting the aid of Sun Tzu — an immortal alien, like Julius Caesar — to plan strategy. They also go out collecting robots and time-traveling wizards. Bentley-23 tries to sneak a peek at bathing superheroines, and Dragon Man gets the blame for it. Scott Lang is concerned that he’ll enjoy killing Doom too much, and Ahura decides to embrace adulthood and fight with the FF, rather than staying safe with the other kids. But do any of them really stand a chance against Doom?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It still has plenty of room for humor and fun, but this is also a much more serious issue, very concerned with adult concerns — and the transition from childhood to adulthood — as the team prepares to go to war.


Hawkeye #14

We get another issue focusing on Kate Bishop, trying to be a low-rent, dead-broke superhero in L.A. She volunteers to help a couple preparing for their wedding — someone has stolen the orchids they’d dreamed of having at their wedding, and some wealthy scumbag named Flynt Ward is responsible. The police refuse to get involved, and Ward has too much muscle on his side. Can Kate get the goods on the villain without getting run over by a car? Probably not…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great fun, snazzy dialogue, fun art, action all over the place. I would really love to see Kate Bishop with her own ongoing series — she’s just so much fun.

Today’s Cool Links:

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