Thursday, November 16, 2017

Not Brand Echh #14

   There's been a bit of a publishing gap between issues #13 and #14 of Not Brand Echh.

   To be exact, it's been 48 years.

   When the first issue appeared in 1967, I was stunned - it featured work by some of Marvel's top creators - including a Fantastical Four pastiche by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (!!)  - and it was absolutely hysterical.

   The issues that followed jabbed Marvel's greatest heroes (Ironed Man! Charlie America!) and even their competition's characters (Stuporman! Gnatman and Rotten!) - and 11-year-old Chuck was a huge fan.

   I wish I could say the same about the latest installment, but geezer Chuck (who, admittedly, is not the target audience), read this issue without ever managing to laugh out loud. (I did smile a few times.)

   The problem is that the issue is making fun of modern conceits (Cap is a member of Hydra! Deadpool and Gwenpool are everywhere! Let's give all the heroes new female counterparts!) - and the humorous takes are too close to what we're actually seeing in the comics.

   Well, that's probably too harsh - younger readers might get a huge kick out of this comic, since it focuses on their heroes.

    As for me, I'll keep hoping for the return of the Fantastical Four. Or, you know, the actual Fantastic Four.

Grade: C+

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New Comics Day

   Here's what I picked up today at the comics shop:

- AMERICAN GODS #9 - The dead start piling up.

- BUG THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #5 (OF 6) - Bug meets OMAC!

- CHAMPIONS #14 - Worlds collide!

- DEFENDERS #7 - Kingpins of New York!

- DOCTOR STRANGE #381 - Loki is the Sorcerer Supreme?

- HAWKEYE #12 - Fed up with clones!

- INCREDIBLE HULK #710 - Return to Planet Hulk!

- JUSTICE LEAGUE #33 - METAL tie-in!

- MAESTROS #2 - What is wizarding school like?

- MAGE HERO DENIED #4 (OF 15) - Kevin must fight a goddess!

- NOT BRAND ECHH #14 - The return of Forbush Man!

- MIGHTY THOR #701 - Death is on the way.

- WILD STORM #9 - Discovering alien tech!

- WYNONNA EARP SEASON ZERO #5 (OF 5) - Showdown with Mad Mary!


     And I received these review copies:

- ACTIONVERSE ONGOING #3 STRAY - Wrapping up the Rottweiler Years!

- ASPEN UNIVERSE DECIMATION #2 - Time for decimation!

- BLOODSHOT SALVATION #3 - Daddy dear.

- DOCTOR WHO 12TH YEAR THREE #9 - The Doctor, Bill and Nardole!

- HERCULES WRATH OF THE HEAVENS #4 - Facing his greatest enemies!

- KID SHERLOCK VOL 01 - Collecting the first adventures of the kid detective.

- MINKY WOODCOCK GIRL WHO HANDCUFFED HOUDINI #1 - Solving a mystery around Houdini!

- MISBEGOTTEN RUNAWAY NUN #3 - Lots of familiar faces.

- NINJA-K #1 - New series!

- PENNY DREADFUL #7 - Continuing the TV series.

- PRINCELESS RAVEN YEAR 2 #1 LOVE AND REVENGE - Adventure on the high seas!

- PUPPET MASTER CURTAIN CALL #1 - The final chapter!

- SHINOBI NINJA PRINCESS LIGHTNING ONI #3 - When it rains, it pours!

- WARHAMMER 40000 FALLEN #2 (OF 4) - Can the Dark Angels be destroyed?
     And that's it! Whew!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Harbinger Renegade #1

   While I've never been a fan of "zero" issues, this is a "done in one" adventure that sets up the upcoming Harbinger Wars event book for Valiant - and it's well worth checking out.

   The focus is on a military strike mission by the augmented H.A.R.D. Corps team (a SEAL-type team with super-powers), which hopes to take down a psiot terrorist.

   Their target seems to be hiding on a remote island, so the team plans its attack carefully. Of course, any war plan rarely survives the first encounter on the battlefield - and the team soon finds itself in a fierce firefight.

   It's a wild, brutal fight from start to finish, with a strong script by Rafer Roberts and powerful art by Juan Jose Ryp.

   It lays the foundation for a bigger story down the road - one that has world-shaking potential. Recommended!

Grade: B+

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Dan Dare #2

   I enjoyed the first issue of the new Dan Dare series, and the second issue offers more of the same high adventure and alien menace.

   The first issue ended with Dan wishing for a new challenge - and he may regret that thought, as a giant alien starship invades our galaxy and destroys one of Saturn's moons!

   Dan and his partners in adventure - Digby and Peabody - rocket to intercept the ship and try to learn more about it - but they receive an unfriendly welcome, and then meet someone who might be a new ally.

   The mystery of the alien invaders is rolling out slowly, but it's building nicely.

   With terrific art by Alberto Foche and a strong script by Peter Milligan, this series continues to carry on the highly-regarded traditions of the original series.

   Recommended!

Grade: A-

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Marvel's Movies Rated (So Far)

   My friends were debating how we rate the Marvel movies. We never agree with the posted lists (and on the Internet, there are many lists to choose from), so we decided to make our own lists - and here's mine.  

   (EDIT: The only Marvel Comics-based movies included here are the ones made by Marvel Studios - as El Vox points out in the comments, there are many other great movies from other studios.)

   Your mileage may vary, but here's how I rate the Marvel Studios movies: 

17. The Incredible Hulk - Shaky CGI, a blah story and a mindless slugfest at the end. Not terrible, but not great.

16. Iron Man 2 - This one had lots of potential and some nice moments, but the resolution was weak.

15. Iron Man 3 - Only marginally better than the second IM film. As much as I like Ben Kingsley, he was largely wasted here for a gag.

14. Thor 2: The Dark World - Pretty bleak, with some solid Thor / Loki moments. The bad guy was forgettable (and a waste of a terrific actor).

13. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 - Its only real sin was not being as good as the excellent first film. And Mantis was largely wasted.

12. Ant-Man - I enjoyed this one a lot - the second-funniest Marvel film yet. 

11. Doctor Strange - Again, I liked it a lot, but it suffered a bit from origin-itis. Lots of ground to cover.

10. Spider-Man: Homecoming - Love Holland in the role, it was lots of fun, but maybe needed a little less Tony Stark content.

9. Thor - This one has some shaky moments, but seeing the pantheon brought to life (including Odin, the Warriors Three, Sif, Loki and the Destroyer) and the redemption / resurrection sequence - all added up to a solid favorite for me.

8. Avengers: Age of Ultron - There's a lot to like here, but it was a just a bit too bloated and dark to meet expectations. Still, lots of awesome.

7. Thor: Ragnarok - A fun romp but a lot of death for a movie that's supposed to be funny.

6. Captain America: The First Avenger - A terrific period piece and a really strong film. Loved it, and whooped aloud when the Howlers appeared.

5. Captain America: Winter Soldier - A heck of a political thriller - a solid story and some great twists. Shows why Cap is Marvel Studio's greatest hero.

4. Iron Man - A wonderful self-contained gem that gave the whole Marvel movie monster its start. (If you love Marvel's movies, remember this: if this film had flopped, we probably wouldn't have seen any more of them.)

3. Captain America: Civil War - Heroes duking it out (with good cause), some genuine surprises and Ant-Man turning into Giant-Man (which also got a whoop out of me). 

2. Guardians of the Galaxy - Just a heck of a romp from beginning to end - you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll believe a raccoon can fly! Great soundtrack!

1. The Avengers - A near-perfect superhero film, with amazing battles, lots of humor and action, characters you care about, and a powerful finish. Best use of the Hulk (although Ragnarok may get the title now) - love the "I'm always angry" sequence - and the final confrontation with Loki and the Hulk. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Jessica Jones #14

   There's not much to say about the latest issue of Jessica Jones that hasn't been said before.

   The story by Brian Michael Bendis is powerful, edgy and unsettling, and the art by Michael Gaydos is terrific - moody and striking. It's a terrific adults-only series and well worth your time - if you can handle the intense nature of the stories.

   But instead of the comic, I want to take a moment to talk about Bendis.

   It was announced this week that he's signed an exclusive contract with DC Comics, so after spending virtually his entire career working at Marvel, he's off to new lands.

   He's certainly had a profound effect on Marvel, from his work on the Ultimate Universe, crafting a new course for Spider-Man and creating Mile Morales, to creating new characters like Jessica Jones.

    He (almost) invented the event series, beginning with House of M, and following it up with several other universe-shaking events, including Secret Invasion. He deconstructed and reinvented the Avengers and created the New Avengers. He had memorable runs on Daredevil, the X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Iron Man.

   He killed characters off, including Ultimate (Peter Parker) Spider-Man, Hawkeye and Jack of Hearts. (So yes, he made mistakes.)

   In addition to the impressive number of great stories he's written, I think he deserves credit for pushing Marvel in the direction of focusing on the writing end of the equation. Art is very important, of course - the medium is a terrific merger of writing and art - but as the old theatre saying goes, "If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage."

   Marvel became the top company in the business thanks largely to its focus on the writing, building great stories and characters. It helps to have writers like Bendis who focus on the visuals, but aren't afraid to devote lots of time to fleshing out the characters and making the reader care about them. And there are few writers who write better dialogue.

   Hopefully he'll be able to have a similar impact on DC's line - both companies are in need of focus, to bring their bloated continuities into line, and to focus on the terrific characters they have in their stables.

   It'll be interesting to see what books he tackles - one would expect Batman and Justice League, but Bendis rarely does the obvious, so we'll see.

   Hopefully Marvel can find some fresh talent to step in and carry on Bendis' traditions - and someone who can continue the edgy drama we've come to expect from Jessica Jones.

Grade: A-

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Mister Miracle #4 (of 12)

   The thing most writers change when they tackle a Jack Kirby creation like Mister Miracle is the inherent strangeness of the concept.

   Writer Tom King has not only embraced it - he's amped the weirdness up to a new level.

   The result is an odd, dream-like series that keeps the reader entirely off-balance. Is what we're seeing real? Is it just happening in Scott Free's mind? Is Darkseid somehow manipulating reality? What's up with Big Barda?

    It's an answer we probably won't discover for a while. Is it a trap for MM to escape? Or is reality a trap?

   That's the brilliance of the Escape Artist concept, of course - we read comics to escape reality, the heroes are fighting to escape death or to help others to escape - it all ties together neatly in the hands of a strong writer.

   I also enjoy the sprinkling of original Kirby-written passages through the story - it brings it all full-circle.

   The art by Mitch Gerads gives us a mix of real-world versions of the characters involved, along with some dreamlike imagery and some more traditional heroics. And I love that cover by Nick Derington!

   This isn't a traditional comic book adventure (and certainly not a typical New Gods story), but after a rocky first issue, it's settled into a very compelling story. Recommended!

Grade: A-

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