Archive for October, 2014

Lumber Cartel


Lumberjanes #7

The Lumberjanes want to get their hands on the blue crystal that scoutmaster Rosie is keeping in her office, so they stage a daring heist to distract her, get in, and get out with the trinket without being discovered. Once they get it, Diane has them combine it with the golden eye that Jo has been hiding — and a golden deer appears, calls Diane “Artemis,” and tells her to follow it. Artemis? Yes, apparently, Diane is the goddess Artemis, in a competition with her brother Apollo to take over the throne of the gods. The group makes it to the cave that the girls visited a few issues ago — they’d already solved all the puzzles and beaten the guardians, so it’s a breeze to get through. Unfortunately, the last puzzle in the cavern is guarded by a bunch of magical lightning bugs. And the only way to save everyone is for someone to make a sacrifice.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Another fantastic issue. Lots of fun, humor, and action, with a giant scoop of serious drama, too. My favorite parts? Other than the (seriously intense) sacrifice at the end? Rosie whittling logs into axe handles, Jen’s sweatshirt reading “Ringwald High Physics Club,” and the formerly antagonistic animated statues waving at the girls while they play chess.


Ms. Marvel #9

A giant robot has attacked Kamala Khan’s school, but she’s having trouble getting her shapeshifting powers to work. She’s eventually able to take the fight to the robot, but gets kayo’d after she destroys the bot. Luckily, Lockjaw shows up with Medusa, and they transport her and her friend Bruno to New Attilan. She gets healed up and learns that she’s not a mutant — she’s an Inhuman. And her healing powers don’t work as well the more she uses her shapeshifting powers, and vice versa. Once she returns home, she has a chat with her parents, then heads out to fight the Inventor again — this time she has a plan to cut off his supply of innocent victims he uses to power his devices. But even after beating the bad guys, things don’t turn out the way she expected.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s an excellent story all the way through, and it finally gives us a chance to see Kamala among the Inhumans. Plus we get more great interaction with Kamala’s parents, who are just plain eternally awesome.

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Season of the Wytch


Wytches #1

Scott Snyder is the best horror writer working in comics right now, and Jock is one of the best at non-traditional, moody, gorgeous artwork. Putting them together on a new horror title this close to Halloween is something I would never have been able to resist.

Meet the Rooks family, new to town after moving when their daughter Sailor was involved in a mysterious disappearance. Dad is a cartoonist, Mom is in a wheelchair, Sailor is a misfit, even without the questions about why a psychotic bully “vanished” right in front of her. And weird things are going on around the family — a deer gets into the house and then dies bloodily in front of them. Something calls to Sailor from the treetops. And there’s a history of horrifying deaths in the area, spanning decades. Something awful is coming for the Rooks…

Verdict: It’s a gloriously creepy first issue, especially with that near-perfect cover. It promises scares bloody, jagged, and over-the-top, as well as quiet, shadowed, and subtle. I’ll be honest — I’d love for this one to go weekly ’til Halloween. It looks like it’s going to give me exactly the kind of horror I enjoy the most.


Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1

Archie Comics is really embracing their new horror comics more enthusiastically than I would’ve ever expected. Their new title focuses on the origin of Sabrina Spellman, the Teenage Witch, born the daughter of a warlock and a mortal woman and now living with her witch aunts Hilda and Zelda, along with her talking cat Salem. In the old Archie comics, this was all an occasion for fun, comedy, and romance. It ain’t like that in the new one.

In this issue, mostly set in the late 1950s and 1960s, the Witches Council lobotomizes Sabrina’s mother when she tries to escape with her infant daughter and later turns her father into a tree. Sabrina is placed with her almost entirely evil aunts, and when Sabrina’s classmates express prejudice against half-breed witches, they move to a little town called Greendale. She meets her cousin Ambrose, a spell-casting bad boy with a couple cobras as familiars, and he helps her land a boyfriend, handsome Harvey Kinkle. But there’s trouble outside of town — a pair of foolish witches from Riverdale have called up something they can’t put down again…

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a spooky and funny debut, with all the familiar beats of the old Sabrina comics twisted into black comedy and/or straight horror. The scariest moments come at the very beginning, with Sabrina’s mother and her desperate and doomed flight through the forest, while the funniest comes toward the end, with Betty and Veronica trying to summon a succubus to help them decide who gets Archie…


Ghosted #14

An occult motorcycle gang is gunning for Danny Trick because he’s been using their sacred virgin-blood candles for purposes they don’t approve of. Anderson’s ghost is tearing the bikers apart and freaking out Oliver King. Jackson Winters and Nina Bloodcrow are keeping their wits about them, and it’s not long before the bikers have all been wiped out. Danny takes them to his hideout — and almost immediately betrays them. He’s a secret black magician, and he wants to figure out what Jackson’s connection is to the spirit world. Too bad Jackson has to die to reveal that…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Plenty of action, plenty of style, a juicy betrayal — the series is still running the supernatural heist game hard and very well.


Coffin Hill #12

Another one of Vertigo’s comics where they start the story on the cover. Seems like a decent gimmick, but this one isn’t nearly as eye-catching as the “Astro City” cover was.

Eve Coffin suspects one of her fellow police officers of being the Ice Fisher serial killer, so she prepares a potion called Liar’s Drops, designed to reveal untruths. The two detectives leading the investigation both pass the test — unless one of them is a warlock and able to suppress his reaction to the potion. Meanwhile, in the present, Eve’s boyfriend and his rotten brother are trying to break her out of jail while magical monsters try to kill her.

Verdict: Ehhh. I must say, the identity of the Ice Fisher was the most badly telegraphed reveal I’ve seen in ages. The killer has been all but wearing a sign that reads “I’m the Ice Fisher!” for the last several issues.

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Showdown in the West


Atomic Robo and the Knights of the Golden Circle #4

Robo is stuck in the Old West, and his batteries are slowly dying on him. He’s traveling with U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves and outlaw dentist Doc Holliday as they try to track down Baron Heinrich von Helsingard — who definitely shouldn’t be in the Old West either, much less building killer robots out of outlaws and gunslingers in a mad plot to take over the United States. Once they get inside his hideout at Crestone Peak, it’s a running battle against the robots through the mountain and then on top of a gigantic dirigible. Can our heroes escape the robot army? And does Robo have a chance to survive before his batteries give out?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of action, lots of great art and characterization and the kind desperate humor you get when funny comic book characters are running for their lives. The next issue is probably gonna be a big one, so y’all hold on.


The Manhattan Projects #24

While the alien-co-opted Soviets continue their plans for conquest through cybernetics and brain transplants, LBJ comes to an agreement with General Groves and General Westmoreland — he’ll let them keep their power and positions in the Manhattan Projects, as long as they eliminate his boss. So how did all the conspiracy theories get started?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Pitch-black humor in the sunlit ’60s. This one has characters from history, alien monsters, mind control, eyeball trauma, magic bullets, and splattered brains. Enjoy the show!

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Friday Night Fights: Ant Mangled!

Merry Friday, everyone — it’s been yet another thoroughly horrible week, and the only thing that will restore our souls is a quick shot of the old cartoon ultra-violence. And that means it’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle is going to be short and sweet — from March 2014’s FF #16 by Matt Fraction, Karl Kesel, Lee Allred, Mike Allred, and Laura Allred, here’s Scott Lang completely unexpectedly taking Doctor Doom to pieces.


Yeah, I said I was going to keep it short — short like Ant-Man! Oh, man, that’s hilarious. Yeah, I still got it.

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Here’s to Fun Superheroes


Batgirl #35

Well, people, it’s the Batgirl everyone was waiting for — much hipper, much less grim-and-gritty, and almost certainly much more likely to make Dan DiDio and Jim Lee overdose on Rolaids. She’s got a redesigned costume, cool art, and a new creator team that isn’t beholden to stupid editors to make everything unpleasant and sad. (Gail Simone really should be allowed to make a fun Batgirl comic someday. You know it’d be keen, and she deserves to have some fun.)

Anyway, Barbara Gordon is moving into a new apartment in the trendy Burnside area of Gotham. After a hard-partying first night with the new roomies, she heads out to grab some coffee and ends up chasing down a computer thief. She comes home to find Dinah “Black Canary” Lance on her doorstep because her apartment burned down — and because Babs was storing some of her stuff there, she’s lost almost everything, too. And she and her roommates are all missing computers and phones. Can Barbara track down the thief? And can she somehow stop the mastermind, the scuzzy cyber-blackmailer Riot Black?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I get the impression that DC was a bit freaked out by Marvel’s success at appealing to markets beyond the stale old manchild gang — and it’s nice that they’ve managed to break out of their own old stereotypes so well. Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher are writing a Batgirl who’s less angsty, more realistic, and more interesting, and Babs Tarr’s artwork is definitely unlike anything else you’ll see with the DC bullet on the cover. I really do wish DC had given Gail Simone a chance to write this new more-fun Batgirl, but the new creative team has turned in a fantastic debut issue.


Astro City #16

Super-keen gimmick here and on other Vertigo covers this month — the story actually starts on the cover of the magazine.

This issue focuses on a couple high-school supers — good-hearted energy-projecting hero Starbright and bitter hyper-genius Simon Says. Simon calls Starbright out and offers him a truce — Simon will help the hero capture criminals for 24 hours, and in exchange, Starbright has to bring him the school’s outcasts for… a birthday party? What sort of scheme is Simon Says up to?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Fantastic characters, dialogue, plot — and a really nice twist long before the end that makes the whole story a lot more resonant and effective.


Captain Marvel #8

Well, it turns out that Carol’s cat Chewie actually is an alien called a flerken. And she’s just laid a ton of eggs with even more flerkens inside. And aliens are attacking the ship to either cat-nap them or kill them. Can Captain Marvel, Rocket Raccoon, and Tic stop the invaders, save the kitties, and get to safety?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a fairly straightforward story — mostly fighting and lasers and rocketships flying around — but it’s told well, and there’s something about weird alien cats with tentacles and pocket dimensions inside of them that really helps push a fun story all the way over the top.

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Poetry as Balm and Bomb


Words May Go by t. wagner

I’ve reviewed more poetry than I ever thought I would on this blog, but this is the first one without any genre connections.

t. wagner (Yeah, all lower-case. You got a problem with poets with lower-case names?) is a guy I’ve been reading for years and years. He specializes in short poetry, simple but focused like a laser, mostly dwelling on nature and romance. They’re far from flowery, though — stripped-down and spare, letting a minimum of words carry the weight of several paragraphs.

It still gets its way into your heart and your head, though, the way all great poetry is supposed to. It’s very much like someone pitching a brick wrapped in wildflowers through your living room window. It’s got incredible impact and beauty, with a serious punch and power.

Let’s have a quick example. This is wagner’s “Gas can seeks box of matches”:

Single gas can, half full
Seeks box of matches

Holds four gallons and
no illusions

Slightly weathered exterior
Belies volatile personality

Enjoys picnics, long walks and
Spontaneous combustion

Nonsmokers, though not preferred
Will be considered

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s full of great poetry, and it’s a fast read, too — but if you’re doing poetry right, you’d better be reading it slow.

I got another motive for reviewing and recommending this. Like I said, wagner’s a friend, and I’d love to see him sell a lot of books, because this book and his poetry really are phenomenal — but it ain’t real easy to order this book right now. It isn’t on Amazon yet, or any of the other online booksellers. Heck, people, you’re gonna have to write a check and put it in an envelope — but it’s worth it, I promise. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

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Down in the Dark


American Vampire: Second Cycle #5

We get a single-issue flashback 1954 in the Nevada desert. A researcher for the vampire-hunting Vassals of the Morning Star is searching for an old mining claim known as the Royal Forkes drift claim. He’d read an old journal written by a miner that referenced the claim. As the researcher looks for, finds, and descends into the old claim, we get to read the miner’s journal, as he and a friend sign on for a claim where they’re being paid a (for the time) very generous dollar per day. But the site is extremely odd. The other miners are unusually quiet, unlike the boisterous, noisy, drunken miners at other claims. The dig site is merely digging straight down into the earth, not bringing up any minerals — and in fact, bypassing veins of silver — and the foreman’s tent is tall and black, and terrible screams are heard from it every night. Did the miners ever manage to escape? And what will the researcher find at the bottom of the hole?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is the most frightening comic I’ve read in several years. I am not kidding. I am not kidding one bit. I really don’t remember the last time I was genuinely scared reading a comic book, but this one definitely did it for me. You want a little dose of pre-Halloween scares? Go get this comic. Go get it. Go get it.


Rat Queens #8

Hey, it’s another flashback issue, this time focusing on dwarven warrior Violet, back when she was a dutiful — and bearded — daughter, modeling her family’s armor at the annual trade show while her brother gets to take part in the battle tourney. But Violet discovers something new and exciting — a dwarven woman is participating in the tournament — a woman who’s shaved her beard off! And she even wins the tournament! How will her example inspire Violet?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a really fun issue, with lots of humor, action, drama, and fantastic characterization. Violet has always been kinda a background character in the series — not as loony or hipster as the other characters, and in a lot of ways the most traditional fantasy archetype in the series. It’s great to get a focus on her so we can see what sets her apart and makes her unique.

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Academy Awards


Gotham Academy #1

Holy cow, a new DC series that’s teen-girl-friendly? Stuff like that happens mighty rarely.

Our setting is, natch, Gotham Academy, a high-class prep school operating out of a building that looks like Arkham Asylum. Our lead characters are Olive Silverlock, a silver-haired second-year student with an anti-authority attitude, and Maps Mizoguchi, an incredibly innocent first-year student who Olive has been assigned to as a mentor to get her accustomed to the school. There follows a great deal of teenaged angst — until Olive decides to take Maps on a tour of the strictly-forbidden North Hall, just before the evening’s school assembly, featuring a speech by school benefactor Bruce Wayne. Unfortunately, the North Hall and its tower are “structurally unsound” — and it’s a long way to the ground for a couple of teenagers.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I didn’t love it as much as some folks did, but it’s a nice story, it’s got excellent characters, and it’s got great art. If they work it right, it’s got promise of becoming something transcendental — something that’ll become one of those sleeper hits no one really expects, that comic fans, non-comic fans, and future comics creators will talk about in reverent tones. But it’s got to do a bit more work to get there. For now, it’s a very fine debut comic, and it’ll be fun to see where it goes from here.


Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse #5

The Titans travel to Paradise Island to find a new treehouse, but the boys aren’t allowed to touch the ground, so they have to wear pink slippers. Cheetah decides to hide Wonder Woman’s invisible jet by painting it camouflage colors… which works perfectly! Meanwhile, back at Sidekick City Elementary, Trigon has decided to hold a practice run of the demonic takeover he plans for the Earth once Raven has her 18th birthday. And there’s a discussion of the many different kinds of alternate earths there are…

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s as cute and funny as we always expect the Tiny Titans to be, but I’ll admit my favorite bit is everyone’s complete inability to see the invisible jet once it’s actually visible.


Silver Surfer #6

The Surfer and Dawn Greenwood are leaving Earth — well, they’re leaving Earth slowly, because Dawn needs to eat, then she needs to go to the bathroom, then she needs to eat again, then she needs her tonsils out, and because she’s gotten her tonsils out, she demands ice cream — the greatest ice cream in the universe! That leads them to Planet Prime, a planet even the Surfer has never visited before. All the people there strive to be the most perfect at whatever their job is. So there’s one perfect architect who designs all the buildings, one perfect builder who builds all the buildings, one perfect painter who paints all the buildings — and one perfect warrior to defend the planet from cosmic-powered aliens. Can even the Silver Surfer defeat Warrior One?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Really nice art, as always, and a fun story. It probably hits its peak early on, with the Surfer’s growing frustration with Dawn’s human limitations, but the rest of the story, though contrived, is nicely done.

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Queen of Swords


Red Sonja #12

Sonja has finally acquired all the great artisans — Gribaldi the chef, Aneva the courtesan, Rat the beast-tamer, Osric the swordsman, Plaitius the soothsayer, and finally, Rakaua the dancer. Emperor Samala seems pleased — but in fact, he plans to betray them all, kill all the slaves, kill Sonja, and have all the artisans buried with him when he dies. Can Sonja fight off an army? Can Sonja and the artisans fight off an army? Hmmm, maybe not…

Verdict: Thumbs up. This has been a gloriously fun storyarc — one of the best of the year. If you haven’t read it before, you should definitely watch for the collected edition. Don’t let the often-exploitative Dynamite name on the cover throw you off — this is definitely one worth reading.


A Voice in the Dark: Get your Gun #1

Someone knows Zoey is a serial killer — and as it turns out, it’s another serial killer. And he wants to meet her for a chat. His name’s Rio, and he’s a relatively nice guy — not interested in harming Zoey, who he sees as a true kindred spirit — but you know, still a serial killer. They have a nice conversation… about serial murder. And then they go their separate ways. But the cops aren’t the only people looking for the mysterious serial killers…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Larime Taylor’s art is still fantastic, with a bit of a change in appearance as Jay Savage is now working the colors. Besides that, very nice dialogue and a nice trick of making these two nutcases so dang charismatic and loveable.

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