Archive for August, 2015

Swear-In Jar


Prez #3

Beth Ross is about to be sworn in as the new President of the United States. Her vice president is Preston Rickard, who is so hated in Washington that no one will ever assassinate Beth, just to keep Rickard out of the Big Chair. Beth decides to build her cabinet out of the smartest people in the country, including a Neil DeGrasse Tyson analogue and an unemployed foreign policy expert. But the powers-that-be are hoping to assassinate Beth after she takes her oath of office but before Rickard does — will her presidency end before it even begins?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I love the story, but a lot of the really great stuff in this issue is background. We follow factory drone Manny Esposito as he gets used and abused by the megacorps that run the world, and that gives us a ton of info about this future version of America. And the distressing thing is how close it really is to the current version of America. Business, politics, and media are getting more and more sociopathic and corrupt as time goes on. How long will it take for the world of this comic to look like the our own world? Heck, all we need to do is develop better hologram technology, and we’re there. Let’s just call it now — this is the sharpest work of political satire currently being produced in comics. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that this is the best political satire being produced in any medium right now.


Hellboy in Hell #7

Been a while since we saw the last issue of this, hasn’t it? The previous issue came out about 15 months ago — I’d actually thought the series was over. But Mike Mignola is apparently still hard at work on it. This issue has Hellboy suffering from a parasitical infection of his very soul, which is causing him to waste away. After a brief vision of his love Alice, who tells him that the world is dying but will be reborn in England through a new World Tree, his new doctors take him for treatment to Dr. Hoffman, who is being persecuted by Dr. Coppelius, who possesses great supernatural powers, as well as an even greater grudge. Hoffman thinks he can devise a cure, but Hellboy will have to hold off Coppelius…

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s always great to see Mignola writing and illustrating Hellboy. A number of great things in here, too — the creepy recitation of the Three Witches’ speech from “Macbeth,” the glorious glimpse we get of Alice, and a golem yelling “Halibut!” — so it’s certainly worth picking up.


Lumberjanes #17

Abigail is dead-set on destroying the monstrous Grootslang — and she really can’t destroy it. It’s much too powerful, and after it gets done killing her, it’s going to go wild on everyone else it can, too. While Rosie tries to save Abigail, the girls are researching how to stop the Grootslang. Turns out it loves jewels, and they’ve found a gigantic stash of jewels in Abigail’s cabin. But what if it can’t be bribed? There’s sure to be trouble then…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great story all the way around — great drama and humor, great characterization and conflict, great humor. And a great, understated cliffhanger, too.

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The Choke’s on You


Harley Quinn and Power Girl #3

Harley, PeeGee, and Groovicus Mellow are trying to find the captured Vartox. After beating up a bunch of spaceships, Groovicus gets everyone high with space-weed, which leads to a short Hunter S. Thompson-inspired mushroom samba sequence. When that’s over, they finally meet up with Vartox — but a Vartox who’s been turned evil! With a loincloth and nipple rings! Is he going to kill everyone?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I enjoyed the hallucination sequence the most, but the entire issue is really incredibly weird. I do consider this a good thing, obviously.


Sensation Comics #13

Wonder Woman intrudes on a footrace by a trio of girls, then spends a certain amount of time gloating about it and telling the star runner of the girls that she should try to be better. And then Superwoman, the evil superpowered Lois Lane from Earth-3, shows up and starts a fight. They also preach at each other a lot and endanger the girls.

Verdict: Thumbs down. No, I really didn’t enjoy this a smidge. I entirely agreed with the girls at the beginning, when they pointed out that a god-powered super-being doesn’t get to brag about being able to run faster than normal teenagers. And the Wondy-Superwoman battle also cheesed me off. It wasn’t particularly exciting, and I was bugged that Diana didn’t try to get the fight farther away from the girls, especially after Superwoman showed a willingness to put them in danger. It just seemed like a story that wasn’t working as hard to be great as the other tales in the series…

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Bullet to the Head


Revival #32

Well, the incredibly rotten wannabe-messiah Blaine Abel finally gets kacked — by an unknown person, by the way — but the bulk of this issue focuses on the highly disfunctional relationship between Em and Dana Cypress. Oh, you thought they got on pretty well? Officer Dana helping keep her reviver kid sister Em going? Em helping babysit her sister’s little kid? Well, no, it turns out Dana was one of those neglectful big sisters, and when Em tattled on her, she got rewarded with Dana beating the snot out of her. And here in the present, when Dana thinks Em has killed Blaine — she does the same thing again. And since revivers heal from wounds almost immediately, this helps out Em as a reviver to her dad. Ya know, Dana, maybe you should not be so punchy with your sister.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a nicely emotional story, with an ending that up-ends a lot of secrets. I do wish we’d had some more hints of Dana’s tendencies toward violence when stressed, however, as some of her reactions seem to come out of nowhere.


Rat Queens #11

The Rat Queens were on the way to Dunlas, Hannah’s old university town, when they got captured by a bunch of goblins who want to cook and eat them. They manage to escape, partly thanks to Betty’s poison candy, but when they finally get to Dunlas, they discover that there was a rebellion at the university, and half the town has been shut down ’til things settle back to normal. Plus Betty meets up with an old friend who is not actually a friend at all.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Always love reading this series. Our heroines’ escape from the goblins is pretty awesome. I do wish we could’ve seen what the Queens looked like in college, like the cover suggested we’d see…

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20 Years of Flight and Dreams


Astro City #26

I was a little surprised to see it’s been 20 years since the first ever issue of Astro City, but I do love that they reprised the very first story from the series, with Samaritan never having a chance to fly for fun except when he’s asleep and dreaming. But Samaritan’s dreams are no longer a refuge — he’s often jarred awake when he dreams of explosions targeting himself and Winged Victory. As a result, his waking hours are now stressful as he snaps at coworkers at his job and behaves recklessly with supervillains as a hero. What’s causing his bad dreams, and what is the solution?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A wonderful story, connected to the past but also addressing concerns in recent issues of the comic — and pointing the way forward to the future. I’m very thankful Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, and Alex Ross have been bringing this to us for so long, and hope the series continues for at least another 20 years.


Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders #2

Yinsen City has been invaded by the psycho Law Enforcers of Mondo City after Captain Britain — Dr. Faiza Hussain her own dang self — appears and starts telling everyone Doom is not a real god. Now the Defenders are imprisoned, and Hussain is being tortured by Boss Cage. But her powers make her really difficult to keep imprisoned and more than a match for Cage. The rest of the Defenders make their own breakout. The White Tiger’s tiger god takes Boss Frost apart, while She-Hulk puts the hurt on the gigantic War Machine. But when it comes to the ruler of Mondo City, can Captain Britain’s Excalibur hold out against the hammer wielded by Big Boss Hill?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a really fun story, and excellent use of all the characters here. Excellent writing by Al Ewing and excellent art by Alan Davis. If this was just a two-issue series, it was a great done-in-two tale. If they’re going to continue it for a few more issues, well, I’m fine with that, too.

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They’re Coming to Get You


Harrow County #4

Emmy is on the run from everyone she knows — they all believe she’s a reincarnated witch who’ll destroy them all. But in fact, she is the reincarnated witch, and she made other enemies in her old life who are a lot more dangerous, including one absolutely gigantic demon who blames her for dying and leaving him alone in the wilderness. Soon, she meets up with Mr. Straightaway, the town pharmacist, who promises to help her, but actually just chloroforms her and ties her up. He reveals a lot of her old self’s story — rejected by the townspeople, she created people from mud who could go into the town and tell everyone she was worth keeping around. But they eventually turned on her and destroyed her. Is Emmy like the old witch she used to be? Or is she willing to be something different?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wonderful, dark, creepy, atmospheric storytelling and art. And listen, you’re reading the columns at the end of the comics, right? Because those are some of the creepiest parts of the magazine. This issue is no different, as writer Cullen Bunn tells us about the man who lived under his house when he was a boy.


All Star Section Eight #3

The Martian Manhunter has, shockingly, agreed to join Section Eight, promising to lead them to the heroic glory which is their birthright. Meanwhile, Bueno Excellente’s knightly rival for Guts’ love is finally revealed: Sir Percival Orifice, Tape of the Wyrm! Should we review who these people are? Bueno Excellente, who defeats evil with the power of perversion? Guts, a lady who is literally a bunch of internal organs? Sir Percival Orifice, a gigantic talking tapeworm? With a mustache? Who has actually been living inside Guts all this time? And what will be J’onn J’onzz’s reaction when he stumbles upon the epic duel?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Any comic that features an off-panel sex-battle between an obese pervert wearing a thong and a giant talking tapeworm with a mustache — and which includes sound effects like “Penetrate,” “Cup,” and “Inappropriately Touch” — has got to be one for the record books.


Howard the Duck #5

All the superheroes are gonna try to put the smackdown on the awesomely powerful Talos the Untamed, a loser Skrull who managed to get his hands on a moderately powerful gauntlet-type weapon called the Abundant Glove. Howard and his new friend Tara Tam beat feet, since they’re unpowered and not equipped to deal with world-ending battles — or are they? Howard has already deduced that Tara is hiding a secret, and Tara reveals that, like the fabled Skrull Kill Krew of olden times, she gained shapeshifting powers by eating a Skrull that had been shapeshifted into — to Howard’s horror — a duck! Can a shapeshifting tattoo artist and an agitated anthropomorphic duck save the day?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A clever and funny story. Nice to see the Skrull Kill Crew return, or at least get mentioned again. And it was also cool watching elements from the cover crop up throughout the rest of the issue. Unfortunately, this is another book that’s been temporarily cancelled — it’ll be back in a couple of months.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • I’m of mixed feelings on this. Yes, the earlier days of “Peanuts” were stronger, and the over-reliance on Snoopy was probably part of why the strip declined. But even in its final days, it was still better than most other strips on the comics pages, and I loved it heart and soul clear to its end.
  • The deal that gave first-run rights for Sesame Street to HBO was probably a good deal for everyone — Sesame Street got saved and PBS viewers won’t really miss out on anything.
  • Marvel’s upcoming “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur” looks amazing.
  • I’m fairly jazzed about the return of Blackalicious, one of my favorite hip hop groups.

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Final Squirrel


The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #8

The monstrous mind-controlling Norse squirrel goddess Ratatoskr has turned everyone against Squirrel Girl, including Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boi! Luckily, she stole Spider-Man’s web-shooters, and she manages to subdue her former allies and Ratatoskr, too! And then the rest of New York shows up and frees them all. Meanwhile, Doreen’s roommate Nancy Whitehead has traveled to Asgard to help Thor and Odinson find out how Ratatoskr escaped from captivity. And it turns out it was Loki! After winning Nancy’s eternal loyalty by turning himself into her fanfic cartoon character Cat Thor, Loki agrees to help round the monstrous squirrel back up. But will they be able to stop her murderous rampage in time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is an incredibly dialogue-heavy issue, and it’s still so much fun that you barely notice how talky everything is. Most of the fun goes on in Asgard, where Loki — or Cat Thor — provides the best of this issue’s laughs. I am disappointed that this series is getting the axe already, but it’s good that it’ll be back again in another couple of months.


Starfire #3

Key West is facing a couple deadly threats — an unknown castaway with mind control powers who manages to kill all the crew in a out-of-commission cruise ship and an underground monster who likes to eat random people on the beach. Can Starfire defeat these villains? Will she learn that you can’t drink baking soda? Will she find an unexpected ally?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Super-cool art and super-cool writing. The humor is quite wonderful — the aforementioned baking soda joke was pretty fantastic. And our special guest star is someone I should’ve expected, especially considering the writers, but it was still great to see her again.

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Magical Happy Unicorn Time!


Phoebe and her Unicorn and Unicorn on a Roll

Let’s be honest, sometimes, all we want is a simple story about a little girl and her special unicorn friend.

These graphic novels (really a collection of strips from a webcomic) by Dana Simpson focus on a little girl named Phoebe who befriends an actual for-reals unicorn named Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. Phoebe wins Marigold’s trust by freeing her from a devastating trap — Marigold had caught a glimpse of her reflection in a lake and was transfixed by her own beauty, and Phoebe broke the spell when she accidentally pegged her in the head while skipping stones. Marigold granted Phoebe a wish, and Phoebe wished for her to be her best friend.

From there, they have many adventures — well, they have mostly fairly kid-centered adventures. They torment Dakota, the school’s alpha — and other than that, they mostly hang out together and chat. And they razz each other about the relative strengths and weaknesses of their species. Marigold is able to go out in public thanks to her magical Shield of Boringness that makes everyone disregard the fact that there’s a freakin’ unicorn walking around in public, which gives the two pals the opportunity for many more shenanigans.


Verdict: Thumbs up. You hear a lot of comparisons to Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes” strip when people talk about Phoebe and her Unicorn, and while Watterson is unquestionably a better artist — no knock on Simpson, by the way — very few cartoonists will ever be as great as Watterson — the comparisons are pretty apt. The characters are pretty similar, though Phoebe is better behaved, and Marigold is 100% real. And the strong sense of play and fun and wonder is prevalent throughout the story.

The artwork is plenty of fun — very expressive in the way the best cartoons are. Characterization is also a great strength — Phoebe is smart and kind and a little lonely and a lot awkward and funny — and Marigold is graceful and egotistical and magical and patient and affectionate.

Why should you get these books instead of just reading them for free online? Well, first, it’s always nice to be able to support cartoonists. And more important for you, it’s easier to read this to your kids before bed in book form than it is on the tablet. Yes, your kids will love it — and if you’ve got kids who love smart heroines their own ages and hilarious magical unicorns? Well, this is going to become an incredibly prized possession.

Get it for your kids. Heck, get it for you — there’s plenty of stuff for grownups to laugh at, too. Just go pick it up.

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Lady Sings the Blues


The Wicked + the Divine #13

We finally get to meet the elusive and mysterious Tara. So far, she has the most detailed — and ironic — backstory of any of the gods. She was once a beautiful college student, frustrated that her true talents as a musician and fashion designer were ignored because she was so attractive. Tired of getting unearned accolades based solely on her looks, she took to performing her music in mostly empty bars while wearing a mask. And then, once she’s turned into a god, she’s stuck in the same trap. She’s beloved for her looks and for her magical concerts — but the minute she brings out her mask and acoustic guitar to play the songs she wrote when she was in college, the crowds turn on her. She doesn’t even know which of the various divine Taras from different world cultures she may be. She’s frustrated with her divine life, frustrated with her fellow gods, frustrated with the hate heaped on her in social media for not being the right kind of celebrity. But Inanke has a way out.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Tara is a thoroughly wonderful character, and her story is a great study on unwelcomed celebrity. And Inanke is getting more and more dislikeable by the second, if that’s possible. The guest artist in this issue is Tula Lotay — her art has a high-fashion look about it, which makes it very appropriate for a comic about appearance and celebrity culture.


American Vampire: Second Cycle #9

It’s 1965, and Skinner Sweet and Calvin Poole are traveling on a secret mission to space, trying to keep the Gray Trader from ending the world, all while Skinner tries to fight off the Trader’s control. Meanwhile, Pearl Jones and Felicia Book are imprisoned in Area 51, betrayed by their military contact in the Vassals of the Morning Star because he thinks the Trader is about to win, and he wants to be on the winning side for once. Is there any way for everyone to get out with their skins intact?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent story, excellent art. Don’t know when the next issue of this one is coming out — but I hope they don’t delay too long.

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Friends to the End


Ms. Marvel #17

The end of the world is happening, and Kamala Khan has finally gotten to meet her idol, Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel. After the two Marvels bond for a bit, Kamala recruits Carol to help her find her brother, Aamir, who’s been kidnapped by the rogue Inhumans, including Kamala’s former crush, Kamran, so they can activate his Inhuman powers and try to turn him into a supervillain. Will they be able to make it across town, do some good for the people in Jersey City, fight the occasional supervillain, and figure out where Aamir is being held before it’s too late?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Fantastic writing, characterization, and art. It’s great seeing the little moments where Kamala can help her fellow citizens — as well as the moments where there’s little she can do. As always, the great joy of Adrian Alphona’s art is checking the fun bits hidden in the background.


Giant-Size Little Marvel: A vs. X #3

The Little X-Men and Little Avengers are still working hard to impress newcomers Zachary and Zoe to get them to join their teams. The X-Men give them their own (temporary) mutant powers and let ’em run wild in the Danger Room, while the Avengers take ’em to Asgard, let them jump on spider-web trampolines, and let them play with some of Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armor. The ensuing explosion introduces them to Galactus, Thanos, and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Skottie Young’s cartooning is endlessly awesome. Almost every panel is grand fun to look at.

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