Archive for Hercules

Friday Night Fights: Spine Cracker!

Another rotten week down the tubes, another short weekend upon us. Will it be enough to wash the bad taste of the previous workweek out of us? Will it be enough to strengthen us for the week ahead? No one can know. The only certainty is that we have to start the weekend with… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle is from October 2008’s The Incredible Hercules #120 by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Rafa Sandoval, Roger Bonet, and Greg Adams. There’s this dude called Kly’bn, who is a Skrull god, and he’s bad news. Herc is fighting the guy off, and Snowbird has just happened to find the spine of another god. Gee, whatever will she do with that?

Well, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for all of us that we don’t get any divine spinal cords jammed through our torsos, at least for the weekend…

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Lucky 13

Zatanna #13

Zatanna gets a visit from a magic cat with a crystal eye painted in the fur on its back. It is apparently a regular visitor to her home, as she knows it’s only there to deliver messages about the future to her. And the messages this time indicate that she’s about to have to deal with Brother Night and the Spectre. While Zee pays a visit to the Spectre to see whether he has some sort of grudge against her, Brother Night is making his magic-aided escape from prison, despite Detective Colton’s attempts to stop him. After mind-controlling prisoners, police dogs, and random commuters, Brother Night takes over his old headquarters, making plans for the future.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Brother Night is wonderfully creepy, Zatanna’s back-and-forth with the Spectre is better than I expected, and the revelation about Detective Colton’s past is pretty good, too.

How to improve this series: Believe it or not, less magic. What, less magic in a Zatanna comic? Listen, I really love Brother Night as a villain, but he’s been in almost every issue, and the ones he hasn’t been in have also focused entirely on magic-users. But Zatanna guest-stars in other comics, too — why not start bringing the rest of the DCU, magical, mundane, and superheroic, into this book, too? This book needs a connection to the rest of DC’s heroes.

Herc #3

A supervillain jailbreak sends Man-Bull, the Griffin, and Basilisk to New York, along with a mysterious amnesiac woman. As Hercules meets (and gradually gets frustrated by) his newest neighbors, the villains go rob a bank. Herc shows up to kick their tails — but he switches sides when Kyknos, Son of Ares, and the Ares-worshiping Warhawks show up. It’s not that he’s really on the supervillains’ sides — but Kyknos is willing to kill all of them. And what’s the amnesiac’s secret, and how does it tie in with Marvel’s “Fear Itself” crossover?

Verdict: I think I’ll thumbs this one up. Good dialogue and several wonderful jokes getting tossed off here — the last couple of issues have been much too serious for a couple of writers as wonderfully funny as Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente.

How to improve this series: More humor, for one thing. And fer cryin’ out loud, give Herc all of his powers back. There are more than enough street-level heroes in the Marvel Universe — why add another when Herc makes such a great world-beater?

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Hot Spidey Sundae

The Amazing Spider-Man: Spidey Sunday Spectacular

I had no plans to pick this up, but a quick flip-through in the store basically charmed the socks off me.

What we have here is a collection of a storyarc that ran as a backup feature in Amazing Spider-Man #634-645. The gimmick was that the whole story was told in 12 two-page chapters in each issue, giving each episode the appearance of an oversized Sunday comic strip. The story was written by Stan Lee himself and illustrated beautifully by Marcos Martin.

The plotline follows two crooks called Brain (the smart one) and Bull (the dumb one). Brain has invented a machine that allows them to escape the police and flee into an issue of a Spider-Man comic. They follow Spidey, try in vain to find out his secret identity, tangle with his rogues gallery, and do their best to steal a time machine. All this is wrapped in Marcos Martin’s amazing artwork and jaw-dropping layouts.

Verdict: Such a colossal thumbs up. Marcos Martin does such outstanding artwork here. Every page has a Spidey logo worked into the scenery somewhere, which gives the whole thing an amazing “Will Eisner’s The Spirit” vibe. The layouts and artwork make the whole thing scads of fun to read through. Stan’s story is maybe a bit silly, but that helps make it perfect for any all-ages readers out there.

Secret Six #33

The team is in Hell on a quest to rescue Ragdoll, if possible, and to retrieve Scandal’s late girlfriend Knockout. Unfortunately, Ragdoll is now second-in-command in Hell and leading its armies, and Knockout is Ragdoll’s betrothed. And the Six, freshly decked out in infernal finery, is confronted with the question of whether they should fight Hell’s armies — with the danger of losing and becoming one of the legions of damned souls — or join with them to become Hell’s new royalty. Meanwhile, Catman goes looking for his father, hoping that he’s being properly punished for killing his mother and ruining his life. Can the team escape their own personal hells and return to the living world, or are their souls as damned as everyone suspects?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great story, great art, great humor and action and drama and the whole blasted shebang. DC’s best grownups-only comic, without a doubt.

Herc #2

Hercules has lost most of his powers and all of his immortality. He’s focusing his efforts on becoming a street-level hero, working at and protecting a local Greek restaurant that the Kingpin wants to buy out and shut down. Herc tangles with the Hobgoblin and eventually, after a long, drawn-out battle, beats him up. After that, he learns that the restauranteur’s daughter has been trying to get the old man to sell, and the Kingpin himself shows up to ask Herc to take out the Ares worshipers destabilizing the city.

Verdict: Man, I don’t know. The action is good, the dialogue is fine, but I kinda prefer my Hercules comics with a bit less dead-serious about ’em.

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Dungeon Keeper

Dungeons & Dragons #5

Adric Fell’s gang of adventurers have discovered what’s going on in the old dwarven ruins — a bunch of enslaved eladrin (high elves, to you and me) have been forced to create a stable portal to another dimension, so an invasion force led by a monstrous cyclops can invade the world. And the cyclops knows they’re watching him, so he sends his hobgoblin minions after them. So while Adric and Varis the elf try to destroy a furnace that’ll flood the caverns with lava, and while Bree the halfling thief is trying to decide whether to warn the citizens of Fallcrest or just to skedaddle and seek her fortune everywhere, and while Khal the dwarven paladin tries to trick the cyclops into keeping him alive for another few minutes… while all this is happening, what’s Tisha the tiefling up to? Well, apparently, she’s dead. Oopsie.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again — this series has outstanding action, great dialogue and characterization, excellent artwork, and is pretty much a bucket of fun from the first page to the last, every single issue. Whether or not you’re a fan of D&D the game, you should be reading this awesome fantasy comic.

Herc #1

A new beginning for the Prince of Power — after the end of the Chaos War, Hercules has lost his immortality and most of his superpowers, but he still has an arsenal of magical weapons from the ancient world. Will they be enough to keep him in the crimefighting game? He meets some new friends — a Greek restauranteur, his daughter, and his gorgeous bartender, and he meets a new foe — namely, the Hobgoblin.

Verdict: Thumbs up. No powers, no Amadeus Cho? Ehh, so what, it’s still written by Greg Pak and Fred van Lente, so it’s still gotta be worth reading.

B.P.R.D.: The Dead Remembered #1

A flashback to pyrokinetic Liz Sherman’s first mission with the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense — when she was just 14 years old and still recovering from the emotional trauma of accidentally killing her family the first time her powers activated. Professor Bruttenholm takes her along, mainly to give her a break from the inside of the BPRD facilities, as he investigates a Massachusetts haunting tied to the witch trials in the late 1600s. Some of the house’s bumps and groans startle Liz into accidentally conjuring a fireball out of the chimney, and while the damage is minor, she heads for the woods, hoping she’ll be less destructive. One of the local boys follows her to try to pick up on the pretty redhead girl from out of town — and something a lot scarier than a creaking house is stalking Liz…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great artwork by Karl Moline, and a very nice beginning to this new story from Mike Mignola and Scott Allie.

Today’s Cool Links:

Hope you guys like awesome rap, ’cause that’s what I’m serving up today.

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Agents of Chaos

Chaos War #5

It’s the final battle against the Chaos King. Hercules is very nearly all-powerful, but is he all-powerful enough to take out the much more all-powerful Chaos King? Can Amadeus Cho get a few million humans transported into the artificial replacement universe, at the cost of billions of other lives? Or will he choke and doom all life to extinction? What great sacrifice will Hercules ultimately make to save everything?

Verdict: Thumbs up, with a number of reservations. I thought the solution to the problem of the Chaos King was a pretty good one. Not so sure I like a completely depowered Herc, though. Wait, was that a spoiler? There was also a resurrection of dead heroes — and I really couldn’t tell who they brought back. Was it just Alpha Flight? Or were there more? All in all, it just barely made the grade.

Zatanna #9

This one is vaguely problematic. Zatanna’s been tied up with marionette string by an evil ventriloquist dummy that has the soul of a murderous old puppeteer inside it. Once Zee gets the puppet confined, she… asks him to tell her his life story. And of course, he insists he’s not really evil. And Zatanna believes him! So its off to the family mansion to figure out a way to unpuppetize him. That’s the entire story in just 12 pages, which is kinda short for a lead feature.

The backup is pretty good — it focuses on “Zatanna, Junior Sorceress” — Zatanna when she was a preteen. She’s just gotten braces and she can’t talk clearly, and she has to figure out some way to stop a gunman when she can’t recite any of her backwards spells.

Verdict: I’m still giving this one a thumbs up. The first story is too short and makes very little sense… but the artwork by Cliff Chiang is, as always, fantastic. Much, much better is the backup — Zatanna as a teenager is just plain hilarious.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Wow, Kevin Church has just completely unexpectedly and somewhat abruptly ended “The Rack,” his long-running comic-shop webcomic. “FIGHT!“, luckily, is still going strong.
  • Scott Kaufman has an interesting discussion of race in comics, with examples from “Maus” and “American Born Chinese.”
  • And speaking of race in comics, David Brothers makes a short analysis of the career of George Herriman, creator of “Krazy Kat.”

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Speed Kills

Green Lantern #60

Well, the Flash has been possessed by Parallax. You know what that means, right? It means Hal Jordan is gonna get his butt kicked almost the whole issue long. By the time Hal finally convinces Parallax to leave Flash’s body and try to possess him again, Parallax’s new captor makes his appearance, and we finally find out who he is — turns out he’s yet another terrifyingly powerful cosmic villain — can’t the Green Lanterns ever catch a break?

Verdict: Thumbs up, but mainly because the Parallax-possessed Flash is so entertainingly depicted. Other than that, there’s really not that much story development.

Chaos War #4

The Chaos King is the most powerful being in the universe, and he’s extremely close to destroying everything. Unfortunately, he’s so powerful, he actually ends up losing Hercules and his allies because they’ve gotten to insignificant to him. They still have the power to stop him, but he has an important friend on his side — Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom!? The few remaining gods have gathered with Gaea herself in Hawaii to await the end, but Amadeus Cho realizes that with Hercules’ new power as the All-Father, he could move everyone on Earth to Hera’s empty pocket universe — but Herc thinks that means giving up, so he refuses. Is it too late to save everything? Or can Gaea show Hercules how to master his powers once and for all?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This has been an unusually good crisis event — lots of stuff happening, and it still makes pretty good sense. The dialogue suffers a bit, but the action is very good, and the stakes keep getting raised higher and higher. Looking forward to seeing how this all turns out next issue.

Dethklok #2

The boys from Dethklok are heading back to Finland, where their last concert ended when they summoned a giant troll that laid waste to the countryside before they accidentally knocked it back out with a cell phone. While Toki tries to prove trolls exist by calling the never-very-reliable Dr. Rockzo the Rock and Roll Clown (He does cocaine!), Murderface reminisces about his mostly rotten childhood, and a cult dedicated to the trolls harvests their own testicles as an offering to the monsters. This is all going to end in disaster, isn’t it?

Verdict: Thumbs down. Despite a few very good moments (Murderface’s description of a minotaur is pretty awesome), it’s mostly pretty dull. I think this probably would’ve been pretty funny as an animated cartoon, but it just doesn’t work right in comic form. Sorry, guys…

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Convention News plus Reviews

First of all, we have some very interesting news for comics lovers in Lubbock.

There’s going to be a meeting tomorrow evening for folks interested in holding more comics conventions here in the Hub City.

It’s going to be happening at 8 p.m. sharp on Thursday, November 11, in the Metro Tower/NTS Building downtown, way up on the 19th floor in the large meeting room at the end of the hall.

They want anyone interested to come on out — whether you’re wanting to run a table, be a guest, or have some larger part in future conventions.

Got questions? Drop Nicholas an e-mail, and he’ll set ya up.

Alright, now let’s hit a few reviews.

iZombie #7

Gwen needs to chow down on a brain soon, or she’s going to turn into a mindless shambler zombie. But before she can get to her cerebellum lunch, we get to see Claire the vampire raised from the dead again by a mad scientist, Spot meets a new friend, and Horatio and Diogenes, the monster hunters, bite off more than they can chew with a van full of vampires.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Beautiful artwork, fun writing, and more craziness injected into Gwen’s undeath. The cliffhanger is pretty good, too.

Avengers Academy #6

Our focus this issue is on Reptil, the academy’s dinosaur-morphing golden boy. He’s dreamed of being in the Avengers his whole life, he’s just been elected as the class leader, and he should be on top of the world, but stress over his parents’ deaths, his potentially out-of-control powers, and having to keep too many secrets buried on behalf of his classmates is driving him towards a nervous breakdown. Can anyone help him make an emotional breakthrough?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m enjoying this comic a lot more than I ever expected to. The dialogue is good, the art is good, the plotlines and characterization are good. It’s well worth reading — hope you’re giving it a shot.

Secret Six #27

The two different Secret Six teams keep brawling with each other in Skartaris, but they call a fast halt to the proceedings after Scandal accidentally slashes Bane’s throat out. Luckily, Skartaris has healers who can fix him up fine. But the two teams are still at odds, still heading for a confrontation between two armies to determine who will control the fantasy kingdom. All that, plus Amanda Waller shoots someone in the head!

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not much to say about it — all the good stuff we’ve come to expect from the “Secret Six” series.

Chaos War #3

The Chaos King is whuppin’ everyone’s butts. He’s already taken over the Underworld, which allows him to control dead gods like Zeus, Hera, and Ares, who, backed up by Chaos’ power, can even smack Galactus around. Hercules is finally forced to kill Zeus, who encourages Herc to team up with the rest of the gods in the rest of the pantheons. Unfortunately, when Hercules uses his new omniscience to find where they’re all hiding out, he reveals their location to the Chaos King — and the more gods he devours, the more infinitely powerful he becomes. Is there any way to win when there’s no chance to win? And who is the Chaos King’s secret ally?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Okay, by this time, the threat to the universe has been risen way, way out of anyone’s league — so it’ll be fun to see how Herc and Amadeus Cho get out of this one next issue…

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Robin the Cradles

Tiny Titans #33

The two Robin-wannabes, Tim and Jason Toddler, are back, making life tough for regular-Robin. They visit Aunt Harriet‘s Day Care Center and are introduced to the other new students…

That’s Stephanie Brown, the current Batgirl, Carrie Kelley, the Robin from Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns,” and Cassandra Cain, the ninja Batgirl from a few years ago. And yes, Tim and Jason have brought Robin costumes for everyone, including Jericho, Miss Martian, Kid Devil, and Wildebeest. When Robin and Alfred go to pick up Tim and Jason after school, they end up with a carload of extra Robins, too. And once they all get to the Batcave, Jason makes a new costume so he can be the Red Hood, and Cassandra gets her own Batgirl costume. And there are even more Robins!

Verdict: Thumbs up. This one is awesome and funny from beginning to end. I really enjoyed all the extra guest stars. It’s great the way this comic can appeal to kids and to their grownup parents who know a little more about all the continuity gags being dropped on every page.

Bruce Wayne: The Road Home: Batgirl #1

I wasn’t planning on getting any of these “Road Home” comics, ’cause they just seem like another bunch of crossover comics I didn’t much want to buy. But hey, the “Batgirl” comic is written by Bryan Q. Miller, the writer of the current “Batgirl” series, so it’s like an extra issue of the regular comic! Yay!

Anyway, Bruce Wayne has finally made it back from his spectacularly long trip through time (even though the “Return of Bruce Wayne” comics haven’t wrapped up yet), and for whatever reason, he’s running around Gotham City in a high-tech costume pretending to be a supervillain so he can “test” his fellow crimefighters. Stephanie cat-and-mouses after him for much of the issue before she finally manages to track him down, and he unmasks himself. Stephanie’s reaction surprises even herself…

Verdict: Thumbs up. I loved this one. It’s far more about Stephanie and her methods and reactions as Batgirl as it is about the much-anticipated return of Bruce Wayne. It’s got all the humor, action, and great dialogue we’ve come to expect from the “Batgirl” title, so it’s definitely worth picking up.

Chaos War #2

Hercules’ entire superhero army has already been brought low, taken out by the Chaos King’s access to Nightmare’s abilities to send mortals to sleep. With only himself, Thor, and Amadeus Cho still awake to save a world gone snoresville, Hercules briefly stops time to allow Thor the chance to save more people. Meanwhile, in Hades, Pluto finds his realm of the dead invaded by the Chaos King’s forces — in desperation, he promises to free the dead superheroes and supervillains in his kingdom if they’ll fight to stop the Chaos King — but when Zeus appears to die again, the psychic feedback forces Hercules to drop his time-freezing spell. Herc also summons Eternity, the entity representing all living things, to fight on their side — but he can’t do it, as the Chaos King is his polar opposite — he couldn’t fight him without fighting himself. So finally, Herc summons Sersi of the Eternals, Galactus, the Silver Surfer, and Daimon Hellstrom to serve as the new God Squad.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice action, nice dialogue. Nice work on raising the stakes even more in this series, and it’ll be fun to see how many of these “dead” characters actually make successful resurrections when this is all over.

Supergirl #57

Bizarro World is in deep, deep trouble — the Godship is actually a gigantic alien, and it’s much, much too powerful for Supergirl or any of the Bizarros to defeat. Supergirl exposes herself and Bizarro #1 to blue solar radiation, giving them the ability to create even more Bizarros, but it’s still not enough. If the planet’s defense is going to require Bizarrogirl’s aid, will she be able to summon enough courage to get the job done?

Verdict: Ehh, kinda in the middle. The story seems fine, but I’m just not sure that the Bizarros should be in a story this serious and angst-filled — I always enjoy ’em more when they bring a lot of absurdist humor to the story.

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Cheese and Quackers

The Amazing Spider-Man: Back in Quack

Yay! Howard the Duck!

Spider-Man runs across Mayor J. Jonah Jameson holding a press conference to promote some group called S.O.O.Ph.I., which is a very obvious evil brainwashing organization that makes all its members wear oversized smiley-face masks. And they’ve kidnapped and brainwashed Howard the Duck and his kinda-sorta-maybe girlfriend Beverly Switzer! Can Spidey break them free of the mind control? And can he use reverse psychology to stop S.O.O.Ph.I.?

Verdict: Thumbs up. What I love about this is writer Stuart Moore is almost channeling Howard’s creator, Steve Gerber, with this goofy, byzantine, gonzo plot. It’s a fun story with a lot of personality.

Avengers Academy #5

Our focus is on Striker, the electrically-powered glory how. His mom was a fame hound and has done everything she can to train him to believe that he’s nothing if he’s not famous. After he gets his powers, he falls into Norman Osborn’s clutches — but unlike his classmates, he gets coddled by Osborn. In the present day, while the Academy members are on a night on the town with Hank Pym, they all get attacked by Whirlwind. Can they stop the supervillain? And can Striker use all this to get himself some much-needed attention?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good story, excellent characterization, fairly good artwork.

Chaos War #1

The Japanese god of chaos and darkness, Amatsu-Mikaboshi, now calling himself the Chaos King, has already killed plenty of gods on Earth and on alien worlds, but now he’s decided to wipe out all reality so he can be the only thing left in existence. He starts out by attacking Nightmare and tearing him to pieces. Meanwhile, Hercules returns to life and returns to Earth, with enough new power to make him the most powerful being on the planet — and that’s a bit more power than even he can handle, so Amadeus Cho shows up (just before the Avengers start pounding on him) and talks Herc down. After that, uses his new power to summon all of Marvel’s heroes to Central Park, rallies them, despite their doubts about Herc’s stability, to join the fight against the Chaos King, grants them all a fraction of his power so they can follow him, and leads them into Nightmare’s realm. But is the Chaos King stronger than all of them?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Greg Pak and Fred van Lente writing Hercules is guaranteed gold, every time.

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Friday Night Fights: Nuts to You!

I don’t know about you, but I think I need this weekend. It’s been a weird, wild week, and a little lying-around-the-house-and-not-getting-roused-up-by-anything sure sounds good. And the best way to start off a weekend is with a little FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Today’s fight comes from December 2009’s The Incredible Hercules by Greg Pak, Fred van Lente, Reilly Brown, and Nelson DeCastro. And lemme tell you, I could’ve posted about a dozen pages of this, ’cause it’s jam-packed with awesome butt-whoopage. But I picked this one, ’cause it makes me laugh like a hyena. Here’s Hercules pretending to be Thor vs. Thor pretending to be Hercules:

Owww. Ow. Owwww. Oww. Owwww.


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