Archive for December, 2015

Christmastime, Christmastime!

Hey, you guys and gals, Merry Christmas! Hope everything’s merry for y’all — and if it ain’t, well, I hope things are better for you next year. Honestly, I hope things are better for us every year…

While we’re on the subject of merriment, I’m taking a break from the blog for a week or so — just to maybe recharge the batteries a bit and see if I enjoy not thinking about comics for a while. See y’all sometime in 2016!

And now — Christmas comics covers!













Y’all be good to each other, y’hear?

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Holiday Gift Bag: Spacelore

It’s almost Christmas! But there’s still time to do some last-minute shopping! So let’s dive back into the Holiday Gift Bag to look at J.B. Zimmerman’s Spacelore.


I previously reviewed Zimmerman’s first book, “The New York Magician,” a modern urban fantasy novel, a couple years back. This one collects a bunch of his short science fiction stories, and they’re pretty dang keen.

Among the stories we get here are:

  • “Radar Ghosts and Dead Cosmonauts” – A motley band of techno-shamans try to save the lives of astronauts who died long ago.
  • “The Screams Grow in Green Ice” – An astronaut lost in space, a secret military space station, and something deeply terrifying make for an astonishingly tense sci-fi thriller.
  • “Universal Destructor” – Sometimes, when you get the right genius working on the right project, the whole universe can open up for you.
  • “Notes from the Long Dark” – Deep space exploration sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? Of course, it’s best when you’re a willing explorer. And when you’ve got more than just your brain tethered to a spacecraft…
  • “The Bleeding Machine” – A salvage crew encounters a wrecked spaceship, but once on board, they find themselves being attacked and separated by unseen forces. Who’s trying to kill them? And why?
  • “A Trembling in the Sun” – A group of AIs seek to solve the mystery of what’s killing the sun before all life on their planet is ended.
  • “Elevation” – A religious pilgrim in a primitive society undertakes a quest to climb a massive rope into the heavens — but where does the rope really lead?

Verdict: Thumbs up. You get over a dozen fantastic science fiction stories in this book — and they’ve got a serious classic feel to them. I think when we all discovered science fiction for the first time, what brought a lot of us in was a fascination with outer space, rocketships, astronauts, robots, and science so wild it’ll break both your brain and the laws of physics. Zimmerman grew up with the same fascination, and the result is this collection of space-based wonder.

And space-based horror, too. Quite a few of these tales feature strong elements of terror, fright, and suspense. Spaceships that keep themselves lubricated on human blood, voices of long-dead astronauts whispering through the radio, space zombies, and more remind us that space can inspire us — but that doesn’t make it safe.

But there’s also adventure and humor and science and daring men and women exploring the galaxy and fighting aliens and performing miracles with newly invented propulsion systems and doing all the things we’ve always dreamed of getting to do out there in the vast, cold, wonder-filled darkness between the stars. There are stories that’ll scare you, but there are also stories to excite you and make you laugh and make you wish we were focusing more of our efforts on making our science fiction dreams come true.

If you know someone who loves science fiction and great writing and the glories of space travel, they’ll definitely love this book. And hey, it’s late enough that you can’t get anything shipped on time, and the malls are just ridiculous, and you still need a good stocking stuffer — well, you can get this one on the Kindle, and it’s inexpensive enough that you can surprise the sci-fi fan with a little extra present without breaking the bank. So go pick it up.

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Squirrel Out of Time


The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3

Squirrel Girl is trapped in the past, and no one in the present even remembers her, except for her roommate Nancy. Doctor Doom is hanging around gloating about his triumphs and earning the ire of passing superheroes, but Nancy, hoping she can get him to take her to the past to rescue Doreen, keeps telling everyone he’s just a cosplayer. Meanwhile, back in the past, Doreen has rounded up a bunch of other people who’ve been banished to the past — but when he and Nancy show up, he decides he should just stay in the past and use his advanced tech and knowledge of future events to conquer the world before any superheroes start showing up. That couldn’t possibly work, could it?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Just as much fun as ever. Stand out moments must be Jubilee taking a selfie with Doctor Doom, the fateful Wikipedia article from the future that tells how Doom won, and as always, the wonderful, madcap dialogue.


Lumberjanes #21

April wants to earn her knot-tying badge, but the camp counselor in charge of knot-tying, Seafarin’ Karen, decrees that everyone in the cabin has to pass for anyone to get the badge. Karen reveals that she’s been trapped at the camp ever since her ship was hijacked by selkies, who still float not far from shore to taunt Karen. They claim she’s stolen the skins they use to change into seals, and she claims they use selkie magic to cause whirlpools every time anyone tries to get to the boat. But Karen is, like almost everyone else at camp, hiding a secret…

Verdict: Thumbs up. So wonderfully weird. The selkies are hilarious, April’s homemade bestiary notebook is hilarious, Riley is hilarious, and Seafarin’ Karen is hilarious and also pretty scary. Also, that cover is just fantastic, isn’t it?

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Hammer Time


The Mighty Thor #2

Loki is tested by his father to see if he’s a strong enough warrior to join Malekith’s Dark Council — he proves his worth by talking a bunch of frost giants into dying. That’s not the frost giant way, so Laufey is unhappy about it, of course. Meanwhile, the Thunder Guard serving the increasingly insane and tyrannical Odin are attacking Thor, and they’ve got her on the ropes ’til Heimdall calls a halt to the battle, sends Thor back to Alfheim, home of the light elves, and allows himself to be taken into custody. In Alfheim, the elves are being slaughtered by hordes of dark elves, backed by Roxxon technology. Can Thor help the situation when Loki is sent after her next?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Really, the most interesting part of this story is Loki’s continuing transition from semi-innocent Kid Loki to semi-innocent Teen Loki to not-very-innocent-at-all Slimy Jerk Loki.


Ms. Marvel #2

Kamala raids one of the offices of Hope Yards Development and discovers a strange purple goo being stored there. She takes some of it to Bruno for analysis, then has to play chaperone for her big brother — he’s not allowed to see the girl he likes without his sister there to keep them both honorable. Tyesha is both traditional and entirely cool, and they all discover that all the locals are sporting purple glowing eyes and all act bizarrely happy with what Hope Yards is doing. Bruno calls in to report that the purple goo has nanites in it, and Ms. Marvel goes after the development company. What’s going on here, and who’s really behind Hope Yards?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Fun story and art, as always, with great character interaction and dialogue. Excellent cliffhanger, too.

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Holiday Gift Bag: Cleopatra in Space

It’s Christmas Week, so back we go into the Holiday Gift Bag so you can find great gifts for the comics fan in your life. Today, let’s check out Cleopatra in Space!


Some of y’all may recognize Mike Maihack’s name and art style — he’s the artist behind the wonderful “Batgirl and Supergirl” mini-comics. Well, he also created this astoundingly cool series of graphic novels. So far, there are two — “Target Practice” and “The Thief and the Sword” — but there’s a third one coming up in 2016.

So we start out with Cleopatra, teenaged princess, soon-to-be ruler of all Egypt — and a deeply bored kid who feels stifled by demands that she be a proper princess. She likes to go playing and exploring with a commoner friend, and one day, they accidentally uncover an unknown tomb, which ends up teleporting Cleo into the distant future. There, she discovers a high-tech Egypt-inspired utopia, where talking cats hold many positions of authority — and where she is foretold in prophecy as the savior of their society!

So on one hand — awesome! The future! Talking cats! But on the other hand — not awesome! She still has to go to school! Ugh, school. But on the other, other hand (We can do that because the future probably has three-handed aliens), part of her schoolwork involves combat training — and amazingly, Cleo is really, really good at combat. Which is good, because there are some bad people in the universe, and a lot of them want to kill her.

Oh, and one more bad thing — there’s no way to send Cleo back to her home time. So how can she get back to her friends and family? How is she going to become Queen of Egypt like history says she’ll be?


Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s an incredibly fun story, with great art, characters, action, and more.

If you’re familiar with Haihack’s work, you’ll be pleased to hear that his art is just as charming and wonderful as ever. The main characters are wonderfully emotionally satisfying as art — and the background characters, scenery, and architecture are also really fun to look at. The design of the techno-Egyptian future is outstanding.

Character interaction and conflict are really great, too. Cleo is our main character, but as the Chosen One, a lot of mundane things often come really easy for her, and everyone’s expectations for her are really high — and her more normal, non-Chosen friends just kinda want her to hang out and have fun instead of being the uber-popular badass. This ends up being a lot more fun than you’d expect.

It’s also pretty cool seeing everyone take orders and learn lessons from cats — the cats are generally a lot more intelligent than humans and they hold most of the teaching positions. It’s pretty fun to watch Cleo sassing the cats who hold authority over her.

The action is entirely fantastic. We get just about every kind of action scene — shootouts, chases, melee, mass battles, you name it — and they’re all exciting and fun and amazingly kinetic.

These books will be really popular with anyone, young or old, who enjoys all-ages comics — they’ll probably be extra-fun for girls who crave their own comic book action heroes. Go pickem up!

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Santa Claus Kicks a Little Ass


Klaus #2

Things are still pretty grim in the town of Grimsvig, but we’re seeing some improvement, thanks to a barbarian who’s stealthily sneaking through the city and knocking out the guards. Not even the toughest or most thuggish of mooks seem to stand a chance against Klaus — and in the morning, all the kids in the city have incredibly awesome new toys. Will Lord Magnus and his spoiled son Jonah stand for this? By all that’s unholy and greedy, heck no!

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice art, nice story. Fun to see burly, muscular Santa kicking up the badassery, and the stealth moments are some of the best in the story.


The Wicked + the Divine #17

Our focal character in this issue is Sakhmet, and our guest artist is the wonderful Brandon Graham. Sakhmet is a cat in human form, lazy and regal and bored and without cares and terribly, terribly dangerous — and really, the only way to keep her from going out and eating people is to make sure she’s sauced all the time. And hey, it’s the end of a storyarc — what’s the big game-changing cliffhanger this time? It’s not an earth-shattering one this time, but it’s still pretty good.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Sweet focus on the mysterious and lethal catgirl, and Brandon Graham seems like a weird artist for this series, considering Jamie McKelvie’s clean and gorgeous work, but it’s always fun to experience Graham’s squishy, detailed artwork.


I Hate Fairyland #3

As you might guess from that cover, things get a little tough for Gertrude in this issue. After she takes a terrific fall that knocks her out long enough for her to grow a beard and her henchbug Larry to build a house, get married, raise a family, get divorced, and lose everything again, Queen Cloudia talks to Fairyland’s Council of Elders and persuades them that Gertrude will never find the magic key to let her leave — so they should invite a new little girl in to take her place. And while Gert has axes and rage, bright-eyed young Happy has optimism and sweetness and terrifically destructive rainbow magic…

Verdict: Thumbs up, almost entirely for the lengthy section in the middle where Larry builds a new life for himself while waiting for Gertrude to swim back to consciousness…

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Holiday Gift Bag: Blacksad

It’s time for us to take another dive into our Holiday Gift Bag for great comics gift ideas for your family and friends. Today, let’s take a look at Blacksad.


So what do you get when you have two Spanish comics creators, Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido, creating a giant comic book for a French publisher about American detective stories — and anthropomorphic animals? You get something that’s way cooler than you were expecting.

Our main character is John Blacksad, a black cat and private investigator. He lives in a version of 1950s America where everyone is a semi-cartoonish anthropomorphic animal. He grew up poor, he’s pretty easy-going, but you don’t want to make him mad, because he knows a lot about dishing out violence.

What kinda stuff happens to Blacksad? Film noir stuff happens to Blacksad.

In our first story, his former lover is murdered by persons unknown, and he dedicates himself to digging through the muck of the underworld — and their big-money financiers — to learn the truth.

In the second story, he’s called upon to investigate a kidnapping involving a bunch of white supremacists — white fur supremacists, actually — and their leader is a gigantic polar bear who’s also the police chief.

In the third story, Blacksad meets an old friend, his favorite professor from college, and must help him and his associates when they’re accused of being Communists — but being a private eye isn’t going to help much when the FBI and powerful politicians get on his tail.

In amongst all this are shootings, beatings, sex, double-crosses, alcohol, cigarettes, jokes, terrors, sorrows, and a whole lot more.

Verdict: Thumbs up. These are wonderfully told stories, as hard-boiled as you can get, and lushly, astonishingly beautifully illustrated.

The art style is cartoony — Guarnido, the artist, used to work at Disney — but the content is a lot more adult. There’s sex and nudity, and people in these stories don’t bounce back from violence — there are a lot of deaths. In other words, even with the funny animal style, you won’t want to get this for your younger kids.

The stories are for adults — and even the animal characters help emphasize this. There’s nothing that quite shows how silly racism is when the white supremacist group is obsessed with the color of their own fur. Blacksad gets on the bad side of both the Arctic Pride group and an opposing gang of black-furred animals — because he’s got just a little white fur on his muzzle.

But even with characters who are cats and dogs and bears and foxes and rhinos and turtles and owls and gorillas and roosters and lizards and deer and giraffes — there are still plenty of times you forget you’re reading a comic full of animals and start thinking of all of them as just as human as you are. And that’s one of the signs of a hell of a great story.

Got someone on your shopping list who loves hard-boiled detective stories or beautifully-illustrated comics? They’re going to love this one. Go pick it up.

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The Blackness of the Soul


Alabaster: The Good, the Bad, and the Bird #1

Dancy Flammarion, the Southern possibly-crazy monster-hunting albino girl, is back. No, wait, actually, she’s not back. She’s dead, and apparently in Hell, which is an infinite blank space inhabited only by Dancy and, occasionally, her furious, vengeful angel. Dancy doesn’t want to be in Hell, but she’s also not too keen on the angel telling her that her life was worthless or a betrayal or something that should be renounced. And while Dancy is dead, shady underworld characters in the South, including a wealthy fixer and a couple of psychos wearing cute animal masks, celebrate her end. Good times are here again for the forces of evil…

Verdict: Thumbs up. I was so excited to see this. I got so much joy out of Caitlin R. Kiernan’s amazing Dancy Flammarion stories, and it’s great that, even with a new artist, the series is still maintaining the extremely high quality we’ve come to expect from it. Y’all get in on this one early, okay?


Harrow County #8

Emmy now knows for certain that her “sister” Kammi is thoroughly evil. She’s rousted up all the most evil of the haints in Harrow County and set them after Emmy to kill her, while she plans on killing Emmy’s father, just to hurt her a little bit more. Can Emmy and the few friendly haints on her side manage to get the better of Kammi and her ghostly army? And where does the girls’ mother come in?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Less low-key creepiness this time and more out-and-out supernatural war — but there’s still a lot of good to say for this story. A confrontation between the two sisters and their contrasting views of the world probably couldn’t end any other way…


All-New Hawkeye #2

In the future, Clint Barton and Kate Bishop have been betrayed by SHIELD and imprisoned by the Mandarin. And he’s also captured one of the super-psychic kids who’d helped cause the massacre of Mandarin’s people — and he wants the Hawkeyes to get the psychic to work for him so he can use him for his own weapon of mass destruction. But Kate has an ace in the hole — her ex-boyfriend and Kree superhero Noh-Varr, who’s much better equipped to deal with hordes of robots and the Mandarin’s powers. So what’s the Hawkeyes next move?

Verdict: Ehh, close enough to a thumbs up. I like the look of the Mandarin, but a lot of the story was just kinda nowhere. The surprise appearance of Marvel Boy was my favorite bit.


The Ultimates #2

The Ultimates have a plan to neutralize Galactus. It involves obtaining the giant mechanical “cradle” that originally transitioned Galen, the last surviving being of the previous universe, into the Devourer of Worlds of this universe. While the Black Panther keeps Galactus distracted with monologuing (the only attack that all supervillains respect), Monica Rambeau and America Chavez obtain the birthing chamber and teleport it to Galactus, then the rest of the team blast him inside the cradle — and what emerges, transformed, may look like Galactus — but it definitely doesn’t act like him anymore.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s all fairly standard proactive superhero fare — but the final splash page certainly does sell the issue. It can’t last, of course, but it’ll be fun seeing how it all goes wrong.


Spider-Gwen #3

Gwen travels to the regular Marvel Universe because she’s stuck in adamantium handcuffs she can’t get off. Once the extremely pregnant Spider-Woman of our universe gets her free, it’s time for Gwen to head home, where Officer Ben Grimm has just been inducted to the NYPD’s anti-Spider-Woman task force. They suspect Captain George Stacy of being one of Spider-Woman’s assistants, because she’s rescued him twice — and others are suspecting there may be a connection, too, as Matt Murdock, blind attorney and rotten lieutenant to Wilson Fisk, pays Captain Stacy a visit.

Meanwhile, Gwen goes to see friends from school and runs into the long-lost Harry Osborn, one of her best friends, alongside the late Peter Parker. Unfortunately, Harry blames Spider-Woman for Peter’s death, just like everyone else — and he has plans for what he means to do about it.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent story, fun art, all kinds of great complications getting thrown into the blender. I still think Spider-Woman being pregnant is a bit out of left field, but her scenes with Gwen are really fantastic.


Starfire #7

Dick Grayson, Agent of SHIELD — um, Spyral or Spectre or whatever he’s an agent of — is in Florida tracking some bad guys. He disguises himself to get aboard a yacht — and as it turns out, Starfire is on the same boat, so he enlists her to help out. Will they be able to stop the villains, retrieve the secret package, and discover what kind of being is stalking Kory?

Verdict: Thumbs down. Sorry — I thought it was more than a bit dull.

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Holiday Gift Bag: Relish

Time for us to get back into our pre-holiday gift recommendations, so let’s take a look at Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley.


I am, I should say, an amazingly bad cook. I have enormous trouble putting a meal together that doesn’t involve either pouring milk on cereal or sticking a package in a microwave. For that reason alone, I was hesitant to get this book — it’s got a reputation as being a comic made for foodies and chefs, so I was concerned there’d not be anything in it for me. Obviously, I was wrong.

What we’ve got here is a memoir comic — Knisley tells a number of stories from her life. She introduces us to her New York City childhood, growing up among food lovers, chefs, restaurant critics, and people who loved to eat, prepare, and share food.

We follow her as she and her mother move to the country, slowly getting used to rural life and rural cooking. We tag along as she takes trips to Mexico, Japan, and Italy, as she discovers the food cravings she shares with her mother, as we explore her secret love of junk food, her quest to create the perfect croissant, and the worst meal she ever ate.

And after almost every chapter, we get a recipe.

Marinated lamb, pesto, chocolate chip cookies, huevos rancheros, sushi rolls, sangria, shepherd’s pie, and much, much more. All of them wonderfully illustrated to help make the entire process easier and cooler.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The writing and art are both lots of fun. Knisley’s stories are grandly human and often hilarious. Her childhood trip to Mexico with an old friend is spotlighted with — aside from all the glorious details of the food they got to eat — her friend’s acquisition of a colossal stash of pornographic magazines, which he carted all over in his overstuffed backpack, convinced he’d purchased the greatest treasure of his life. Her attempts to make her own croissants are constant but hilarious failures, and her recipe at the end of the chapter recommends that readers just get the canned croissants at the grocery store. And during her teenaged trip to Italy with her foodie father, she rebels by… eating at McDonald’s.

And her skill at writing about all the glories of food — good food, gourmet food, junk food, comfort food, and every other kind of food — is where this comic is really just absolutely fantastic. I’m a terrible cook, and I have a terribly unsophisticated palate — but her writing, art, and recipes make me wish I were more of a foodie and that I was capable of navigating my way around a kitchen.

If you’re looking for a gift for someone who loves cooking and loves good food, you can bet they’re going to enjoy this. Go pick it up.

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You’ve Got Mail


The Vision #2

Last issue, the Grim Reaper attacked the Vision’s robotic family, severely injuring Viv before Virginia beat the villain to death. She’s decided to keep the Reaper’s death a secret from her husband. She tells the Vision a story about driving him away. Meanwhile, Viv is on mechanical life support, and her twin brother Vin is not adapting well to the near-death of his sister. He attacks a rude classmate and almost kills him — and when the Vision is called to the school to talk to the principal, he uses his status as a superhero to cow the principal into not punishing his son. But things are not all okay for the Vision family. Someone knows what Virginia did, and they’re going to make her pay.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This comic is so very creepy. It’s so creepy and inhuman, I want to take every issue, lock it in a metal box, lock that box in another metal box, bury it in the backyard, and set the backyard on fire. And then, because I really, really love creepy comics, I want to then dig up the backyard, take the comic out of the box… and lick it.


Howard the Duck #2

In our last issue, Howard was rescued by a couple of gender-switched clones of himself and Rocket Raccoon. In this issue, we get their backstory. After Howard and Rocket escaped from the Collector during the first series, the girls — Linda and Shocket — were cloned from their DNA, and one of the Collector’s minions, Dee, was assigned to be their foster parent. When it’s decided that the girls are going to be frozen — or maybe even killed — Dee flees with them, and they rent a time machine to send them 25 years into the past so the Collector’s henchmen won’t pursue them. But Dee is eventually killed, leaving the girls on their own — and the Collector back on their trail.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It looks like Linda and Shocket are about to be very important characters — hence the origin story. It’ll be interesting to see what Zdarsky and Fish have planned…


All-New All-Different Avengers #2

A Chitauri calling himself Warbringer has just effortlessly kicked Iron Man’s, Captain America’s, and Spider-Man’s butts, but the Vision shows up to assist. Meanwhile, Nova flies into town to confront Warbringer, only to find that Ms. Marvel is already on the scene. Nova and Ms. Marvel don’t really get along. Warbringer gets away from them, too, but they team up with Spidey, Iron Man, Cap, and Vision to confront Warbringer one more time. It looks like it’s all over for the alien after Thor makes an appearance — but Warbringer has an unseen ally on his side…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Got the whole team together in just two issues — that’s a record for new team comics these days! Good story, good art, excellent team conflicts getting set up — all around, a lot of fun.


Revival #35

Jesse Black Deer, the terribly burned reviver, has been ordered to kill Em Cypress — and in fact, he attacks her and tears out her heart. But that can’t kill a reviver, and her heart grows back. But by then, he’s got her trussed up and is about to cut her head off — he’s going to bury her head and body separately to keep her alive but helpless. But Em’s sister Dana lures Jesse’s soul to him, and Jesse burns down to ash. But one of the guards is in on the scheme, and he’s going to behead Em — at least until Dana shoots his jaw off. But now the sisters are forced to go on the run to flee the authorities.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Looks like the end of a storyarc, and it’s a pretty good one, too. Definitely upsets the old status quo — and it’ll be fun to see where the story goes from here.

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