Archive for Morning Glories

Gang of Freaks

Dial H #2

Nelson Jent is busy experimenting with the phone booth that turns him into different bizarre superheroes. The Human Virus, the Shamanticore, Pelican Army, Hole Punch, Double Bluff, Rancid Ninja, Skeet — but he always has to turn back into overweight schlub Nelson Jent, and Nelson Jent feels utterly powerless to protect his friend Darren, still stuck in the hospital. He raids one of the criminal syndicate’s targets after turning himself into the digital superhero Control-Alt-Delete, but gets ambushed by the meta who hurt him in the previous issue — he has trouble remembering which powers he possesses with each new body. Meanwhile, the syndicate’s boss, Ex Nihilo, plans to release his own Big Bad, never realizing until too late that his supposed minion was far smarter and more powerful than he was. Will Nelson’s newest persona, the Iron Snail, stand a chance against the deadly Squid?

Verdict: Thumbs up. So very, very strange characters — and vast numbers of them, too, which makes it even more fun. Seriously, the great pleasure in this is how spectacularly surreal it all is. I need more comics like this in my life.

Morning Glories #19

Well, shallow, cynical Zoe is really an enthusiastic murderer, specializing in stabbing seemingly random classmates to death. But nerdy Hunter saw her last killing, so now he’s on the target list, and we get treated to Hunter running for his life, while flashing back on his own mother’s slow death from cancer. So what’s going to be the twist on Zoe’s murder spree? Or will there be one at all?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Harrowing stuff — like a combination of the tensest parts of a slasher movie and the weirdest parts of a conspiracy thriller. Man, would I like to see some answers sometime soon, ya know?

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – The Transformation of J.H. O’Donnell

J.H. O’Donnell has been a background character in the BPRD books for a while — a brain-fried occult specialist who’s probably a bit crazier than anyone working for the organization should be. How’d he get that way? We get a flashback to O’Donnell’s trip to catalog the library of a recently-deceased necromancer in 1987. He had Hellboy along for protection, but once he finds the secret entrance to the necromancer’s real library, he finds himself being followed by the greatest occultists in history — all of them dead, all of them very dangerous. And he can’t even count on much help from Hellboy, who has to battle a bull-headed demon in the sub-basement. And once the occultists show O’Donnell their secret faces and whisper their secret spells in his ears, it’s pretty much all over for him…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wonderfully creepy and weird, with outstandingly moody art from Max Fiumara and colors by Dave Stewart. This is just a one-shot, but it’s the perfect kind of eerie horror that Mike Mignola does so well.

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Another Bunch of Owls

Batgirl #9

First of all, that right there has to be the worst cover of the week. No one jumps that way, especially not elite assassins. The only people who jump like that is people who are being drawn by artists who never learned anything about anatomy.

As the Court of Owls declares war on Gotham City, Batgirl meets up with one of the organization’s super-assassins called the Talons — she was a little girl who was orphaned and disfigured in the only Japanese balloon bombing attack to make it all the way across the Pacific Ocean. So this Talon attacks Gotham with more balloon bombs and effortlessly smacks Batgirl around. A member of the Court of Owls tries to keep Commissioner Gordon from interfering with the Talons’ attacks. Will the Gordons be able to stop the Owls’ assault on the city?

Verdict: Thumbs down. The origin story for this individual assassin is just far too complicated and involved — I wouldn’t mind so much if this was going to be a recurring character, but I think we can guess that she’ll never be seen again after this issue. I also never really understood why she spared Batgirl’s life the first time — or how the perpetually-outmatched Barbara Gordon managed to beat her the second time.

Batman #9

Meanwhile, in yet another part of this “Night of the Owls” crossover, Batman is wearing a suit of armor and fighting off a bunch of Talons inside the Batcave while Alfred tries to lower to cave’s temperature as low as possible so the assassins’ healing factor will stop working. After he gets rid of that set of villains (with the aid of robot dinosaur in the Batcave), Batman heads out into Gotham to try to save the lives of some of the citizens who’ve been targeted by the Talons, including businessman Lincoln March. There’s also a flashback story starring Jarvis Pennyworth, Alfred’s father and the Wayne family’s first butler.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I’m just not feeling that this new crossover is worth anyone’s time. A bunch of random fighting, villains who aren’t impressive (I mean, really — assassins who stop functioning when it gets cold? In a city in the northeast where it snows at least half the year? The Court of Owls is dumb as bricks), and a flashback that doesn’t make much sense.

Morning Glories #18

By the way, that’s probably the second-worst comic cover of the week. Nice and artistic, but come on, people, this is too dark and shadowed for anyone to even see the title, much less get any notice on a shelf with dozens of more brightly colored comics…

Jun — or Hisao, as we’ve learned is his real name — is our focus for this issue, combining flashbacks to his younger days back to his current life at Morning Glory Academy. He has another confrontation with his hostile twin brother, but is defended by a fellow student named Guillaume — a boy who Hisao knew — and fell in love with — when he was younger. But events are advancing quickly, and someone has decided a sacrifice is needed to set things right again.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Almost every time we see Hisao in this comic, I end up getting more confused. It doesn’t help that Guillaume — a character who appears out of nowhere — is suddenly boosted into an important quasi-main character, the only one able to get through Hisao’s notoriously stolid demeanor. I didn’t feel emotionally caught up in the story the way I have in previous issues.

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The Horror in the Hills

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – The Pickens County Horror #1

Here’s the beginning of a new two-issue miniseries. It’s set in a small rural county in South Carolina, during the ongoing slow destruction of the BPRD world. We start out with a small family of country vampires who discover something unexpected and terrifying out in the woods. Jump forward to a few days later, and two BPRD agents, Vaughn and Peters, arrive in Pickens County to investigate reports of a strange fog — they’re not really expecting to find anything at all, but a combination of green fog, mysterious mushrooms, figures in the dark, and a creepy academic obsessed with vampires puts both of them in serious danger.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’ll be honest — almost anything titled “The Pickens County Horror” would probably get a thumbs-up from me, because it’s such a perfect horror-story title. At any rate, I got a lot of joy from the story itself — mostly mood and creepiness for now, but I’m very interested in how Mike Mignola and Scott Allie are going to combine vampires, mutant mushrooms, and apocalyptic horror.

American Vampire #25

Travis Kidd is a ’50s vampire-hunting hoodlum, facing Skinner Sweet, the original American vampire — and Sweet’s powers aren’t being negated by the new moon anymore. Does Travis have any chance to survive? Can he prevail against the vastly more powerful Skinner? Why does he have such a mad-on for Skinner anyway? Does Agent Hobbes have any part to play in all of this? And what’s Pearl Preston been up to lately?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yeah, I left all the spoilers out, ’cause this one’s darn good and has a bunch of really fun stuff buried in there. If you aren’t reading this comic… well, I really don’t know what’s the matter with you. It’s just about the best horror comic on the stands right now.

Morning Glories #17

The majority of this issue focuses on Jade and Ike, stuck sitting in a magical cavern under the academy, waiting to see if Casey and Ms. Hodge are ever going to vanish like they said they would. In fact, our spotlight character is definitely Jade, as we get plenty of flashbacks to her past. For the most part, Ike needles her, Jade reacts, sometimes furiously, sometimes sadly. It’s a very dialogue-heavy issue, as Jade and Ike discuss Casey’s trustworthiness, Jade’s suicidal tendencies, religion and atheism, and what the Morning Glory Academy may really be all about.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Like I said, an issue very heavy on dialogue — and luckily, it’s very strong, entertaining, snappy dialogue that’s fun to read, whether Ike and Jade are insulting each other or talking philosophy. The snapshots of Jade’s past are also very good. This storyarc is supposed to finish up next issue, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.

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Blood and Honey

American Vampire #24

Vampire-hunting ’50s hoodlum Travis Kidd is facing his nemesis, Skinner Sweet. Wait, isn’t Skinner Sweet dead, stabbed to death with gold during World War II? Well, it doesn’t look like that’s the case at all, ’cause he sure seems to be functional now. Travis’ only advantage now is that there’s a new moon tonight, when American vampires are at their weakest — but even then, he’s fighting a vampire across the hoods of a couple different out-of-control muscle-cars, which doesn’t mean anything comes easy. Can Travis stop Skinner and save his girl before either their cars crash out or the sun comes up?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is glorious stuff. Absolutely amazing action, combined with flashbacks to Travis’ youth, escape from the mental hospital, and extremely brief alignment with the vampire-hunting Vassals of the Morning Star. Rafael Albuquerque’s art is heart-stoppingly beautiful, too. You guys are reading this comic, ain’tcha? You better be reading this comic.

Morning Glories #16

When last we saw Casey Blevins, she was escaping from the Morning Glory Academy by mystically traveling in time. Well, unfortunately, even though she ends up at the base her father used to be stationed at, he doesn’t recognize her, because at this time period, Casey was just three years old — so the military assumes she’s some sort of spy, holds her prisoner, and tries to force her to tell why she’s working with the Chinese. Her only hope of getting out is Ms. Hodge — and since she can make anyone do anything or believe anything she wants just by telling them to, it’s a stone guarantee that Casey’s getting out just fine.

Verdict: Thumbs up. For something featuring a nearly effortless escape from a military base, there was a heck of a lot more tension in this story than I was expecting. It’s all good stuff — fairly mind-bending, too, as tends to be the nature of “Morning Glories”…

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Into the Woods

Finally getting the last two weeks’ worth of comics reviewed… just in time to pick up new comics this afternoon. Siiiiigh.

Morning Glories #15

Zoe, Hunter, and Jun are participating in something called Woodrun, which involves them… running through the woods. Jun gets eliminated pretty quickly when he’s flagged by another team — no serious penalty, but he’s out of the game and has to go back to the campus. Hunter gets some friendly chatting done with a fellow geeky student, and Zoe reminisces about how her life went to hell in high school. The two students, who normally hate each other’s guts, get in a little time to talk to each other in a non-antagonistic fashion, and everything seems pretty hunky-dory. But nothing ever seems to turn out completely positive in this comic…

Verdict: Thumbs up. What a cliffhanger! On top of that, we’ve got good dialogue, good characterization, and more backstory for Zoe. It’s all good stuff — go grab it while you can.

Demon Knights #5

Our heroes are all undergoing more stress and disagreement as the night wears on, and the Questing Queen and Mordru take advantage by sending their astral bodies out to tempt the heroes to desert the villagers. Who will resist? And who will betray their companions?

Verdict: Thumbs up, but it was actually a lot less enjoyable than other issues. It’s just going on and on and on, and I think this storyarc could’ve been wrapped up faster than this. Writing for the trade makes for dull, over-long comics…

Secret Avengers #21

Looks like the whole Secret Avengers crew is along for the ride on this one. The team stages a fake emergency at the Office of National Emergency to try to track down an employee who is a secret agent of the Shadow Council. Once they get the mole to reveal themselves, they learn what the Shadow Council has been up to — secret breeding experiments to create human hybrids who could turn into terrifying and all-but unstoppable monsters — and those monsters are just seconds from waking up in the building’s basement. Any chance anyone can stop the unstoppable monsters?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice set-up, nice complications, nice solution. Not a lot of fancy characterization, but this is an action comic, and it definitely brings on the action.

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #5

Frankenstein and OMAC beat up on each other while Brother Eye tries to infiltrate

Verdict: Thumbs down. I don’t mind an all-fighting comic, but this was all-dumb-fighting, and I don’t like those at all.

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Run Like Hell

Morning Glories #14

A story told concurrently with last issue, this time we focus on Zoe, Hunter, and Jun. After Hunter furiously tells off Zoe for being a shallow skank, Zoe decides to get her petty revenge by forcing him to pal around with her — because if she won’t, she’ll get her many male admirers to kick his butt. With the just-announced Woodrun, Zoe has decided she wants to win it, with the unwilling help of Hunter and Jun. But once the race actually begins, very, very strange things happen, and neither the students nor the teachers are prepared for what happens.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This felt like a very deeply unusual story. Lots of weird, moody teen angst, as you’d expect from this series, and lots of weird time travel stuff and just general weirdness — again, as you’d expect from this series, but they combine into something stranger than normal.

Blue Beetle #3

Jaime Reyes spends the whole issue trying to get his alien costume to let go of him so he can look human. La Dama slashes an injured minion’s throat so she can do some kind of blood magic. The Reach try to get a lock on where the Blue Beetle armor is. The Brotherhood of Evil get called on the carpet by a possibly new villain called Silverback. And I fail to be entertained by any of this.

Verdict: Thumbs down. This wholly unnecessary reboot of a character who wasn’t that old is just not hitting the cylinders like it should. I don’t understand why it’s important for us to understand what the armor is saying now. I don’t know why La Dama had to turn into a black magician instead of a somewhat sympathetic crimelord. I don’t know why there’s so little interaction between Jaime’s wonderful supporting cast. I want to see some improvement here fast.

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The Freedom to Speak

Liberty Annual 2011

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund puts one of these benefit comics out once a year to raise a little dough and to promote the good work that they do on behalf of comics creators and the First Amendment.

This year’s annual includes some really grand stories from great names like Matt Wagner, Dave Stewart, J.H. Williams III, Steve Niles, Carla Speed McNeil, Fred Hembeck, J. Michael Straczynski, Richard Starkings, Mark Waid, Jeff Lemire, Kazim Ali, Dara Naraghi, and many, many more. They focus on topics ranging from book and art censorship, homosexuality, separation of church and state, Islam, and nekkid people. There are a bunch of pinups, too — most of them are completely forgettable, except for the one done by Frank Quitely of Alan Turing.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is turning out to be a pretty good year for benefit comics, because there wasn’t a single bad story in this one. Like I said, most of the pinups weren’t all that good, but everything else was excellent. If you’re the type of person who’s going to get offended by people who are naked, gay, Muslim, or politically outspoken… well, you probably need to read this more than most folks. Everyone go pick it up. It’s five dollars, but it’s for a truly excellent cause.

Morning Glories #13

We start out with a certain amount of teenager angst, as Hunter’s date with Casey gets cancelled, Hunter has a blowup with Zoe, and Ike has to move back in with the roommates who hate him. And then all the students at the Academy are ordered to report to the front lawn for something called “Woodrun.” At the same time, Casey gets a note from friendly school guidance counselor Ms. Hodge to collect Jade and Hunter and meet her for a very important cause. Unfortunately, Casey can’t find Hunter and is stuck with the loathsome Ike instead. What does Ms. Hodge want? And why does it require everyone to meet in the very spooky cave?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good dialogue, intrigue, suspense, and art. And a nice cliffhanger, too. So many comics seem to be “written for the trades,” where you have a long storyarc that’s designed less to be read in single issues and more as a collected trade paperback. This one seems to be the opposite — there is a coherent storyarc running through the comic, but the story actually seems to be enhanced by being drawn out from month to month. It gives the suspense and mystery time to grow on the reader.

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Drain the Swamp

Swamp Thing #1

Alec Holland used to be a scientist, and he used to be Swamp Thing, and he used to be dead. And he’s not any of those things anymore. He’s lying low working as a construction worker, unwilling to return to his scientific work with plants and definitely unwilling to become a swamp monster, even though he never actually was the Swamp Thing, even though he’s got the Swamp Thing’s memories cluttering up his skull. And even more bizarre, plants still love him. They grow fast around him, they like to coil themselves around him.

He soon gets a visit from Superman, who asks him if he’s aware of the various species die-offs taking place across the country — Holland is, but notes that isn’t all that uncommon — large numbers of animals die all the time, sometimes for reasons of sickness, sometimes for no apparent reason at all. Superman wants to check to see if Holland is adjusting alright to his return from the grave. And Holland can’t really tell him everything’s all that great. He’s worked on his old bio-restorative formula, but abandoned it. And he’s having weird dreams about plants. And where no one’s aware it’s happening, some sort of monstrous abomination, part alive, part dead, is beginning a rampage.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I know everyone else seemed to love this one, but it just rubbed me the wrong way. It was creepy in places, but tried a little too hard to look like Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing stories. I was bugged by the lack of anything explaining Alec Holland’s current backstory — not all of us paid any attention to how Swamp Thing changed during the “Brightest Day” storyline. And I was really a bit irritated that Swamp Thing himself never appeared in the story ’til the last page. Sorry, but I just didn’t buy all the buzz.

The other interesting thing about this issue is that it’s just about the first place outside of promotional artwork where you can see what Superman’s new costume looks like.

And it’s not good.

Yanick Paquette is one of the best artists DC or anyone else has. You don’t see him drawing stuff that looks bad — pretty much everything he draws looks awesome. And if he can’t make the Man of Steel’s costume look like something other than a bucket of boiling crap, no one else is going to be able to do it either.

Morning Glories #12

We get introduced to a brand new character in this issue — Lara Hodge, the guidance counselor at the Morning Glory Academy. And she’s not happy with the way things are being run. Students are being killed, the head nurse is a sadist, the headmistress is only effective at terrorizing students. Hodge arranges meetings with most of the main cast of students, giving Zoe a gun, giving Jade some pills to help her sleep through her nightmares, and she tries to comfort Casey, who’s still grieving over her dead parents. But is Hodge just another sticky strand in the Academy’s web, or can she really do something to help the students?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lara Hodge is an interesting character, and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of role she’s going to have in the story. Other than that, plenty more intrigue and mystery, and all the things this series does so well.

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Tinker’s Gold

The Unwritten #28

Tom Taylor, Lizzie Hexam, and Richie Savoy continue trying to figure out what connection Tom’s father had with the Tinker, an obscure Golden Age comic book character. They know that Wilson Taylor had been assigned to kill the comic’s creator — but when he learns that the creator is actually a beautiful woman named Miriam Walzer, he’s unable to follow through and soon starts a romance with her while he tries to figure out what makes her tick. But he knows he can’t keep the subterfuge up forever, and his relationship with Miriam is likely to get both of them killed. Meanwhile, back in the present, Tom and his friends try to keep a low profile, unaware that the Cabal is busy killing people worldwide who had any connection to Wilson Taylor.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Love the story and art, love the dialogue, and I’m still grooving on this focus on the birth of comics as a medium. And seriously, I just love that cover. Ain’t that a nice cover?

Morning Glories #11

The focus on the individual members of the Morning Glory Academy continues, as we get a look into the life of the entirely rotten and self-absorbed Ike. Turning traitor against his friends has paid off well for him, as he’s been rewarded with a private apartment, which he uses to entertain a veritable conga line of the academy’s prettiest students. But the Academy’s teachers have a new bargain for him — they’ll let him leave the Academy and go home if he does one little chore for them — there’s someone they want killed. So we get some flashbacks to Ike’s past — he was accused of his wealthy father’s murder, but had a perfect, ironclad alibi — despite the fact that everyone really believed he committed the crime. But can Ike be tempted to kill for the Academy? Probably. But is he prepared for who his target will be?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Ike is definitely the least likeable of the Glories, so it’s pretty cool that this story actually gets you to feel some sympathy for the smarmy little weasel. Beautiful art, as always, and plenty of weird mysteries that will hopefully be explained someday…

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Blood and War

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #1

A new miniseries starring our new favorite non-sparkly vampires, still written by Scott Snyder, but with Sean Murphy, last seen illustrating Grant Morrison’s “Joe the Barbarian,” taking on the art chores.

Our lead character in this series is Felicia Book, half-vampire daughter of Wild West lawman Jim Book. It’s 1941, and Felicia works as a vampire slayer for the Vassals of the Morning Star. After proving to a newspaper publisher that his papers are infested with vampires, she returns to the Vassals’ headquarters in the American Museum of Natural History — where she has a reputation as the organization’s leading badass — and prepares to take a sabbatical. She learns that former Las Vegas police chief Cash McCogan is with the Vassals now, and he may have a lead on a cure for vampirism — hidden inside Nazi Germany.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The writing quality is just as high as the regular “American Vampire” series, and Sean Murphy’s art is just seriously awesome.

The Unwritten #26

Tom Taylor has been captured by his enemies, and he’s being put up for auction for a bunch of rich bastiches so they can dissect him and find out his secrets. One of the members of the Cabal is on hand, planning to wipe everyone out and take Taylor for himself, but Mrs. Rausch, the elderly puppeteer, puts a spell on him to keep him silent. Tom’s friends, Lizzie Hexam and Richard Savoy, are drugged in another room — but Savoy became a vampire not that long ago, and it’s not easy to drug the undead. Everyone makes their escape — but what secrets is Tom going to learn from his father’s diaries?

Verdict: Thumbs up. All in all, a good story. Very nice intrigue and action, and wonderful dialogue.

Morning Glories #10

This one is all over the place. Jade is the angstiest and most pitiable of the kids at Morning Glory Academy, and a lot of this story is set in her dreams. And the parts of it that aren’t set in her dreams may also be set in her dreams. And the ending is either set in her dreams or is set in her post-suicide hallucination.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Because I don’t like being this confused.

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