Wednesday, November 22, 2017

New Comics Day

   A slim holiday week for me! (Happy Thnksgiving, everyone)! 

   Here's what I picked up today:

- ASTRO CITY #49 - The story of Resistor!

- DOOM PATROL #9 - Old enemies return!

- DOOMSDAY CLOCK #1 (OF 12) - The DC Universe collides
 with Watchmen!

- FLASH #35 - Can the damage to his family be repaired?

- INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #594 - The search for Tony Stark continues!

- KAMANDI CHALLENGE #11 (OF 12) - Art by Walt Simonson!


     And I received these review copies:

- DOCTOR WHO 10TH YEAR THREE #11 - Can Gabby be saved?

- DOLLFACE #11 - Searching out mystic bloodlines.

- DR RADAR #1 - Investigating deaths in 1920 Paris!

- MIRACULOUS #16 SIMON SAYS - A child's game and a deadly threat!

- OVERTAKEN #4 (OF 5) - Under assault!

- SANTERIA THE GODDESS KISS #5 (OF 5) - A tale spanning centuries!

- THE BEAUTIFUL DEATH #3 (OF 5) - Another survivor?

- TORCHWOOD THE CULLING #2 (OF 4) - Captain Jack's worst nightmare!

- WARHAMMER 40000 DAWN OF WAR #4 (OF 4) - The war continues!

- X-O MANOWAR #9 - Hail to the emperor!

- ZOMBIE TRAMP ONGOING #41 - Can a zombie die?

     And that's it!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Doctor Who 12th Doctor: Year Three #9

   The bad news is, we're rapidly approaching the Doctor Who Christmas Special, which sadly spells the end of Peter Capaldi's run as the 12th Doctor.

   The good news is, it looks like it's going to be a lot of fun, as it reunites him with the wonderful Bill, and it introduces a new and different Doctor!

   The bad news is, it looks like Nardole's run on the series is over, and Bill may also be done.

    The good news is, their adventures continue in the Titan Comics series, and the latest issue is a solid addition to the run.

   (OK, it's just good news for the rest of this review.)

   This "done in one" issue is mostly lighthearted as the trio go on a shopping trip - but when you're a Time Lord looking for special equipment, you can't just drop by Home Depot.

   So it's off to the Ubermarket, and some fun bits scattered among the usual running for your life.

   Nothing too serious or deep - it's just a fun story for fans of all ages.

   Like I said, Good News!

Grade: B+

--------------------

Monday, November 20, 2017

Ninja-K #1

   I hate it when I find out I've been mispronouncing a comic book character's name.

   For example, I've been saying the name of Hela, the Asgardian / Marvel goddess of death, "He-lah." But in the Thor: Ragnarok movie, she was called "Hay-la."

   So now Ninjak is back in a new series, and I find that it's not "Nin-jack" - it's "Ninja-kay." Gah.

   All that should be cleared up a bit in this issue, which recaps the history of the secret program that led to the creation of the ultimate agent, Ninja-K.

   (And if you're suspecting that it all starts with someone named Ninja-A, then you're one sharp cookie.)

   We also see a new threat appear - one that may be unstoppable - and its ultimate target is Ninja-K!

   The story by Christos Gage is powerful and sheds light on some previously-hidden history (at least it was hidden to me).

   The art is by Tomas Giorello, a terrific and largely unsung artist who did amazing work on the King Conan series from Dark Horse. Here he breathes vivid life into a history lesson that's anything but dry, and throws in lots of action and heart!

   The series is off to a strong start, and this is a perfect jumping-on point for Ninja-K! Best of all, you'll avoid the shame of saying his name wrong (like some guys I could name)!

Grade: A-

--------------------

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini #1

   If you would be a success in comics, my child, a great first step is getting a rave review / quote from a legend like Neil Gaiman, whose says: "I was seduced by Cynthia Von Buhler's artwork. She is a wonder."

   See, that would get me to pick up a comic.

   The topic doesn't hurt, either. So meet Mindy Woolcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini.

   She's a unique force in her time - an intelligent, ambitious woman who's driven to succeed in a business that doesn't want her - namely, her father's detective agency.

   Unfortunately, he doesn't agree and only allows her to work as his secretary - but when he's away, she there to meet a famous client: Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes and a one-time friend of Harry Houdini.

   He wants to hire a detective to investigate Houdini - and Mindy jumps at the chance, although it will take her to some seedy places.

   The story and art are by Von Buhler, and it's compelling stuff. The art is very expressive and down to Earth, to the point of being almost grimy.

   It's an unique series aimed at mature readers, and well worth tracking down.

Grade: A-

----------------

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Justice League - Movie Review

   So finally, after a long wait, the Justice League has arrived on the big screen.

   The good news is: I didn't hate it.

   The bad news is: it has problems. 

   The movie is all about putting the band together, following up on story threads laid out in the execrable Batman v Superman movie and the mostly-delightful Wonder Woman movie.

   So we find Batman (played by Ben Affleck), who's been fighting crime in Gotham for 20 years and is showing his age. He discovers the threat of an alien invasion, and when Diana (the luminous Gal Gadot) checks in with the same warning, they go in search of allies - namely, Aquaman (played with Surfer Dude / Point Break brio by Jason Momoa), the Flash (played with nervous energy and humor by Ezra Miller), and the mysterious Cyborg (played with a brooding intensity by Ray Fisher).

   The loss of Superman (Henry Cavill) at the end of BvS has left the Earth vulnerable, and the CGI monster known as Steppenwolf (the voice of Claran Hinds) brings an army of Parademons to conquer the planet - and considering what happened the first time he attacked the planet (depicted in a terrific flashback battle sequence), it looks bad for our side.

   So you can guess where it all goes, with the heroes trying to stop Steppenwofl before he can find the elements he needs to finish his plans.

   In a lot of ways this movie is a delight. As a longtime fan, it's wonderful to see these heroes working together - but the interactions are a bit clumsy, and the attempt at humor often fall flat. But at least there is some humor in there and a general feeling that the heroes are trying to help people. They even go out of their way to rescue innocent civilians (which would have been unheard of in Man of Steel or BvS).

   But the story just seems to stutter along, with no sense of urgency. When danger threatens the world, the heroes decide to... rest up for the evening, and then get down to the job at hand. (Oh, and while I'm throwing out problems, please: cut out the casual profanity - it's not needed; eliminate the random brutal deaths; and replace the Flash's costume - it just doesn't work, and the running effect needs tweaking. The super-speed stuff is great, but when they show him running it. looks. terrible.)

   Look, this is definitely the best of the "new" DC films (which include Suicide Squad, Man of Steel and BvS). They still have some work to do to get on the level of Marvel's films, but they're getting closer. They have a great cast and a really strong supporting cast, including Alfred (the wry Jeremy Irons), Lois Lane (the lovely but tough Amy Adams) and Commissioner Gordon (the amazing J.K. Simmons). 

   They have a solid team together (with room for more), and they have a much better tone and mix of personalities to work with.

   They just need a better opponent - and some better writing (and consistency) through the whole movie. 

   (Oh, and I was very happy to see Gardner Fox credited as the creator of the Justice League (of America) - but why no credit for Mike Sekowsky, who drew the book for its first eight (or so) years? Or Julius Schwartz, the editor who probably dreamed up the concept?)

Grade: B

-------------------

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Incredible Hulk #710

   For the Incredible Hulk it's back to Planet Hulk again for the first time.

    Let me explain.

   This version of the Hulk is not Bruce Banner, who paid a memorable visit to the world Sakaar, fought a number of strange alien creatures, overthrew the government and became ruler.

   This time around, it's the Amadeus Cho version of the character, who finds himself in deadly danger, fighting the Warlord of Sakaar for the lives of a threatened tribe.

   But who will win the day - the genius side of Cho, or the animal side of the Hulk?

   As always, Greg Pak writes a powerful story and Greg Land's art is terrific, crafting beautiful and / or intense creatures and a strange world for them to inhabit.

    The issue suffers slightly from gladiatorial creep - the traditional "face impossible odds in the fighting arena" bit - but the action is fierce and it'll be fun to see where the story goes from here.

Grade: B+

-------------------

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+

-------------------

 

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+

-------------------

 

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-

------------------

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-

-----------------
 

 
 

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-

-----------------

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Master of Kung Fu #126

   Sigh. I had high hopes for this comic.

   After all, it features the all-too-rare return of Shang-Chi, the heroic son of Fu Manchu whose original series in the '70s was a real favorite.

   As part of its "Legacy" program, Marvel has been peppering us with "update issues" focusing on various heroes who've been out of the limelight, including Power Pack last week and Master of Kung Fu right here.

   (Of course, completists will have to pick up this issue to keep their collections intact.)

   Then I heard that former pro wrestler C.M. Punk was writing this issue, and that gave me hope, because he's a well-established, long-time fan of comic books - and quick-witted, too.                                      

   But the story is just... ok. Titled "Shang-Chi's Day Off," it focuses on some odd characters, lots of humor, a silly villain and an odd plot involving training animals to fight - it never quite gets beyond the level of being just a series of gags.

   The art by Dalabor Talajic is very good, with a nice gritty feel to the proceedings - but it's not enough to lift this one-shot above the status of being a basic fill-in issue.

Grade: B

---------------------

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- DAREDEVIL #595 - Mayor Fisk?

- FLASH #34 - A shocking reunion!

- GREEN HORNET MEETS SPIRIT #5 (OF 5) - Kato's life hangs in the balance!

- JESSICA JONES #14 - Return of the Purple Man!

- MASTER OF KUNG FU #126 - Shang-Chi's day off!

- MISTER MIRACLE #4 (OF 12) - The trial of Mister Miracle!


     And I received these comics for review:

- 4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK TPB - Collecting the series about criminal kids!

- ADVENTURES OF MIRU TPB VOL 01 - Why is Miru on the most wanted list?

- AMERIKARATE #8 - The final showdown!

- DAN DARE #2 - New adventures with the classic hero!

- DANGER DOLL SQUAD #2 - Battling a techno virus!

- DOCTOR WHO 12TH COMPLETE ED YEAR ONE - Sixteen issues in one big hardcover!

- FIGHTING AMERICAN #2 - Trapped in the modern world!

- FORCE #1 - The biggest game of his life!

- HARBINGER RENEGADE #0 - The prelude to Harbringer Wars 2!

- HARCOURT LEGACY #1 (OF 3) - Can a teenager handle the secrets of magic?

- IAN LIVINGSTONES FREEWAY FIGHTER TPB - Collecting the hard-hitting series!

- MISBEGOTTEN RUNAWAY NUN #2 - So many body doubles!

- RIVERS OF LONDON CRY FOX #1 - Tackling supernatural crimes!

- SHERLOCK GREAT GAME #4 (OF 6) - Concluding the latest TV adaptation.

- THERE'S NOTHING THERE #5 - Reno confronts her tormentors!

- TOYETICA #4 - Is there such a thing as a harmless toy?

- WONDERFUL WORLD OF TANK GIRL #1 - Back for another round!

     Whew! And that's it!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension Omega (#8 of 8)

      Some of the best Doctor Who stories (or at least the ones I enjoy the most) bring together different incarnations of The Doctor.

   Whoops, forgot the recap: Doctor Who is a long-lived alien who travels through space and time in a machine / starship called the Tardis that's bigger on the inside. If he is killed during an adventure, his body regenerates in the shape of an entirely different actor - something it's done 13 times so far (depending on who's counting) - and it'll be happening again in about a month. Apparently.

   So this issue gives us a galactic menace - mysterious white holes that, like their black hole counterparts, draw in any object - and they seem to be unstoppable.

   You'll see lots of Doctors popping up in this series, as they discover the surprising person behind the white holes - and work together to devise a solution.

   And with a small army of Doctors and a swarm of Companions to tackle the problem, you can expect some wild twists and turns.

   It's a delight to see the different characters interact in this tale, and it gives each character the proper voice and attitude.

   As always, it's great fun watching this lot trying to one-up each other. Loved it!

Grade: A-

-----------------  

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Jetsons #1 - Guest Review

   Hey, it’s time for a Guest Review! My pal Bruce Rosenberger sends along this review of a comic based on a beloved Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

   This was a total surprise to me when I saw it. One look at the cover of The Jetsons and I instantly thought, oh no! Serious version of comic (cartoon), another Archie type series. 

   I instantly moved on through the pile, but then I stopped and chastised myself. I am seeing more and more closed-minded comic fans dismissing newer comics and the movies as heresy, and I’ve discovered that, most of the time, I think they’re wrong. So (admittedly very reluctantly) I read the issue.

   On page one we’re introduced to the Jetson family in the age old manor, “Meet George Jetson...” (you probably know the rest!) but then we are immediately introduced to the family as their new more realistic characters. 

   The story moves along updating us on WHO each of the family are, and what they do, and before the issue ends, we are given the beginning of t the overarching story.

   For the most part, I don’t really see these new characters as the Jetson family, even Rosie the robot is not what you recall from the cartoons. As for Astro? We’ve seen him, but that’s about that. 

   I’m hoping the characters will be fleshed out a little better as the story progresses because, as I said, these aren’t the Jetsons we know and love, but at the same time, I think we’ve been introduced to some good characters. 

   The story itself moves along okay for the first two-thirds of the issue, and then plods a little for a couple pages, but all in all I’m interested to see where it goes. 

   I’ll give it a solid:

Grade: B

———————

Sunday, November 5, 2017

No World #6 (of 6)

   This issue wraps up an effort by Aspen to mold an Avengers / JLA style comic, teaming up a variety of heroes to tackle a powerful opponent.

   And if this team fails, there will be No World left to defend.

   The issue picks up with last issue's shocking ending - the apparent betrayal of a team member and the apparent death of another teammate.

   The heroes are underpowered and outmatched - and their only hope is with the "weakest" member of the team.

   It's a solid issue and the action moves along briskly (though the new reader may struggle to sort out the heroes - most aren't well-known names to the casual reader).

   With strong art and a solid story, this series is a good set-up for future adventures with a team of heroes from the Aspen Universe.

Grade: B

-------------------

 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Avengers #673

   As a long-time fan, I'm really enjoying the story writer Mark Waid is crafting here in this crossover between The Avengers and The Champions.

   While a modern tale, it evokes the classic Justice League / Justice Society crossovers that were so special in the 1960s.

   The Earth faces a deadly threat from the Counter-Earth - a duplicate of our world created by the god-like High Evolutionary. For some years it orbited on the far side of the sun - then it was apparently destroyed. Now, somehow, it's back - and its orbit is much faster.

   To cope with the threats at many locations around the world (and on the other world), the two teams are working together, and have split into groups - a classic scheme!

   The main focus is on the Falcon and Viv Vision, who confront the H.E. face-to-face - but will they walk away unchanged?

   We're only halfway through this six-part crossover, and so far, it's shaping up to be a classic!

Grade: A-

-----------------

 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok - Movie Review

   The quick review of Thor: Ragnarok is: it's a heck of a lot of fun! But while I enjoyed it, I can't say it's the best Marvel movie ever.

   I think the problem is that it's being presented as a comedy, and while there's quite a bit of humor in it, there's also a lot of death and destruction - and it's difficult to laugh that off.

   It's loaded with great characters - Chris Hemsworth has never been better as Thor, Tom Hiddleston gets to have a lot of fun as Loki, and Cate Blanchett is wonderful as Hela (whose name I've apparently been mispronouncing all these decades - I thought it was "He-lah," but apparently it's "Hay-la"). There is no scenery she doesn't take delight in chewing, and (despite the whole death-dealing shtick), she's a blast of energy anytime she's on the screen.

   The action sequences are amazing - the Hulk / Thor fight actually exceeded my expectations and was a powerful confrontation, worthy of past classic comic book fights between the two. 

   And there are fun bits of business along the way, including a great cameo by Dr. Strange; a wonderful new character in arena fighter Korg; some zany moments with the irrepressible Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster; some heartfelt moments between Thor, Loki and Odin; a great new character in the Valkyrie; and some entertaining "buddy movie" moments with the Hulk (who works so much better as a character now that he can talk).

   But there are problems. The Warriors Three (Fandral, Hogan and Volstagg) are given terribly short shrift - was Sif even in the movie? Jane Foster was written out with a tossaway line (though perhaps that was unavoidable). The death and destruction are on a grim scale (which one would expect from Ragnarok, I suppose). Also, the writers play awfully fast and loose with the history of Asgard - especially Hela's origin.

   But any quibbles are mostly minor - the movie is a rollicking good time, sweeping from alien worlds to Earth and Asgard and various other points of interest. Most of the humor hits the mark and brings Thor much more in line with the excellent Walt Simonson version of the character, rather than his usual depiction as a humorless oaf (a mistake too many writers make). Like Superman, Thor should be having fun - he's powerful, virtually indestructible and handsome - what's not to like?

   But don't go into this movie expecting the best Marvel movie ever - that title still belongs to The Avengers (or maybe Captain America: Civil War) - but Ragnarok is one of the best, and mighty entertaining.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Captain America #695

   See that comic over there on the left? The year's not over yet, but it's a strong candidate for the best comic of the year.

   Which would be impressive, considering how much I didn't like the last version of the comic bearing the Captain America title (while starring a Hydra impersonator).

   Wisely, Marvel has turned the job of bringing back Steve Rogers - whose life and reputation has been dragged as thoroughly through the mud as is possible - to its top creative team.

   Here - after a lovely recap of Cap's origin - we get a quick flashback to the beginning of Cap's modern-day career, and then we arrive in the present, where we find Steve on a journey of discovery.

   It's a tale about the true meaning of heroics and a great blast of the kind of real-world morality that is so badly needed in the world today.

   Look, you can't go wrong putting one of the industry's best writers, Mark Waid, on this title - especially since he's already written some great Cap stories in the past - and Chris Samnee on the art, since he's better than ever, crafting powerful, heroic images - and lovely, slice-of-life characters as well. He's one of the best in the business, period.

   I admit that I may be influenced by my dislike for the last storyline - getting back on the right track is certain to earn my approval. But this issue rises above that - it's just a terrific, "done-in-one" story about one of the greatest heroes in comics history.

   If this is what we can expect from the Marvel Legacy comics, sign me up!

Grade: A+

-----------------

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

New Comics Day!

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

ARCHIE #25 - The heart of Riverdale!

AVENGERS #673 - Worlds collide!

BANE CONQUEST #7 (OF 12) - Why does Bane want a baby?

CAPTAIN AMERICA #695 - Time for Cap to discover America!

JUSTICE LEAGUE #32 - Battle with the Dark Multiverse!

PAPER GIRLS #17 - Time to find out what's going on!

POWER PACK #63 - Where is Power Pack?

USAGI YOJIMBO #163 - A thief marked for death!


   And I received these comics for review:

DISHONORED PEERESS AND THE PRICE #2  - Emily returns to Dunwall!

DOCTOR WHO LOST DIMENSION OMEGA #1  - The conclusion!

INFINITE SEVEN #8 - War is declared!

NO WORLD #6 - They belong to no one!

ROBOTECH #4 - All new adventures!

     And that's it!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

X-O Manowar #8

   Far from Earth, Aric has been fighting against a tyrant (and his army) on an alien world - and with this issue, we arrive at the final battle.

   It's a surprisingly laid back story, focusing mostly on the preparations for the battle, as Aric checks in with his friends, loved ones - and a traitor.

   (Don't worry, there's also a war included.)

   And while going to war in the X-O Manowar armor may seem like a bit of a cheat, Aric soon finds that the armor can only take him so far.

   It's a game-changing story by writer Matt Kindt, with dark but powerful artwork by Clayton Crain and Reynato Guedes, and it sets up lots of interesting possibilities for the future.

   Recommended!

Grade: B+

---------------

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Beautiful Death #2

   Since I'm not much of a fan of dystopian futures, I was surprised at how much I liked the first issue of The Beautiful Death.

   It brings us a world that has largely fallen to ruin. The buildings still stand, but the people are gone - mostly.

   We're still not sure why. It may involve radiation, and it may involve alien insects - it's still not clear (and may never be made clear).

   The story follows three men - Wayne, Jeremiah and Soham as they struggle with survival and sanity.

   They make a surprising discovery as they explore an empty city - and it leads to a truly disturbing scene, and an unsettling flashback.

   It's an ugly turn - and a disappointing one - for a series that was already dark and disturbing.

   I don't expect a happy-go-lucky story here, but there are limits to how much bleakness I can process.

   But if you're into dystopia, it doesn't get much better than this.

Grade: B-

-----------------

Sunday, October 29, 2017

All New Soulfire #8 (of 8)

   You really shouldn't buy the new issue of All New Soulfire.

   Well, not unless you've been buying the other issues of the series.

   That's because this issue is a coda to the action that's filled the previous seven issues.

   The main goal of the series has been to resolve some of the long-running plot threads and to tie the series back into the main body of the Aspen Universe - and it succeeds!

   Here we learn the final fate of Samusara, the source of magic power, and we get some hints for the future of the Soulfire series, which will be returning next summer in time for the title's 15th anniversary.

   But unless you've been following along, you'll want to pick up the collections - otherwise you're going to be lost trying to sort out the characters and concepts here.

Grade: B

--------------------

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter #2

   I really liked the first issue of Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter - and I'm happy to report that this issue is even better!

   It finds the Captain and his... friends? Associates? Partners? How about: cohorts in Vampire Hunting? ... visiting a town that's under siege by a small army of vampires.

   Each member of the team immediately goes to work - the scholar Grost to study the problem, the beautiful Carla to gather the unique weapons of the Vampire Hunter, and the Captain to investigate the enemy - and they're full of surprises.

   The story by Dan Abnett is terrific, loaded with horror, wit and surprises, and the art by Tom Mandrake is outstanding - some of the best of his career, and that's saying something!

   The series is a worthy successor to the film and one any comics fan should enjoy.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A

-------------------

 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Eternity #1

   So what happens when all-powerful creatures settle down and try to live a normal life?

   That's the focus of this new title, Eternity (which has no relation to the Marvel cosmic character who's filled with stars).

   It focuses on two settings: an apparently down-to-Earth setting for a man, Abram, his wife Myshka, and their young child; and an alien world that has been rocked by a shocking death - and the disruption of the one will lead to a surprising change in the other.

   This issue, written by Matt Kindt with art by Trevor Hairsine and Ryan Winn, manages a great balance between strange and the normal, and perfectly sets up the next chapter in the emotional quest that unfolds.

   The comic features great art and a powerful story - it's well worth checking out!

Grade: A-

-----------------

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Silver Surfer #14

   It's with a touch of sadness that we arrive at the final issue of Silver Surfer (at least for now).

   This maxi-series has been real treat, telling a single story arc for Norrin Radd / the Surfer and the young Earthwoman, Dawn Greenwood, who becomes entangled in his life.

   The result has been a terrific run of stories, as the Surfer learns more about humanity, and he introduces Dawn to some of the miracles of the universe.

   The series has been written by Dan Slott and Michael Allred, with Allred also providing the art. They've managed a great balance of heartfelt stories, solid science fiction, some strong fan service (clearing up quite a few long-running plot threads), and injecting some great humor and sweetness into the proceedings.

   I'm a real fan of Allred's art, which combines the energy and imagination of Kirby with a classic storytelling style.

   The story's not perfect - there are some moments that ask a bit too much of the reader's credulity, and the inside jokes go a little overboard from time to time - but overall, it's an entertaining collection of clever, touching stories that take the Surfer in fresh new directions.

   Recommended!

Grade: A-

-----------------

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- DAREDEVIL #28 - Leaving the land of the blind.

- ELFQUEST FINAL QUEST #22 - Final farewells.

- FLASH #33 - Fight for the Earth!

- KAMANDI CHALLENGE #10 (OF 12) - Land of the dead!

- SAGA #48 - End of the line!

- SILVER SURFER #14 - Now what?

- THOR WHERE WALK THE FROST GIANTS #1 - Facing Ymir!


     And I received these for review:

- ALL NEW SOULFIRE #8 - The finale!

- BLOODSHOT SALVATION #2 - Sacrifice!

- CAPTAIN KRONOS #2 - A plague of vampires!

- DOCTOR WHO 11TH YEAR THREE #11 - A relic from the time war!

- ETERNITY #1 - An expedition into the unknown!

- KIM AND KIM LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD #4 - Breaking up.

- LOLA XOXO VOL 2 #4 
- THE BEAUTIFUL DEATH #2 (OF 5) - The end of humanity!

- VAMPBLADE SEASON TWO #8 - Setting up the Danger Doll Squad.

- X-O MANOWAR #8 - Besieged!

- ZOMBIE TRAMP ONGOING #40 - Final fight!

     And that's it!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Torchwood #1

   Torchood is a spinoff with strong connections to its roots.

   The title refers to a secret organization based in Great Britain that is designed to defend the Earth for the alien and supernatural menaces that Doctor Who typically tackles - but not even the Doctor can be everywhere.

   Heading up the group is Captain Jack Harkness, an immortal warrior who works alongside the tough-as-nails (and very smart) ex-Policewoman Gwen Cooper.

   The connections mentioned above can be found in the writers - John Barrowman, who played Jack in the TV series, and his co-writer, Carole Barrowman.

   The story is setting up an unusual threat for the two to face, as a mysterious (but somehow familiar) woman arrives on the scene, bringing danger and death in her wake.

   The art by Neil Edwards is excellent, with strong likenesses of the characters and dynamic layouts.

   The story touches on an interesting (and somewhat disturbing) concept from a classic Doctor Who episode - any fan of that series or the somewhat-darker Torchwood series is bound to enjoy this comic.

   Captain Jack approved!

Grade: A-

----------------------

Monday, October 23, 2017

Maestros #1

   The snarky version of the review of Maestros is that it's Harry Potter for an adult audience.

   And I do mean adult, with mature language, genitalia, sex and lots of brutal violence.

   But this book is actually very good and doesn't deserve the snark.

   It tells the unlikely story of the origin of the universe, the death of its rulers, the surprising destiny of an unlikely protagonist, assassination attempts, pudgy kids, naked moms and so much more.

   The story and art are by Steve Skroce with colors by Dave Stewart. It's loaded with remarkable events (on a scale both impossibly big and quite intimate), interesting characters (though not always likable ones), and events that will keep you guessing throughout.

   The art is a delight, brimming with imagination and grisly delights, amazing environments and excellent character and creature designs.

   This isn't for everyone - remember, adult stuff herein. But if you're a fan of Saga, this definitely follows in its footsteps - smart, funny and thrilling, all with an edge and an inventive story.

   Highly recommended. For adults.

Grade: A

---------------------

 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Incredible Hulk #709

   The Planet Hulk storyline was a big one for Marvel.

   It gave the character a real shot in the arm, spawned lots of great stories, and eventually bloomed into a raucous "event" mini-series.

   (It also looks to be a central part of the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok movie.)

   The Hulk has been out of the limelight lately, what with Bruce Banner being "dead" and all. (Or is he? Wasn't he revived in Secret Empire?)

   So the green-skinned heritage is being carried by Amadeus Cho, who was tagged as the "Totally Awesome" Hulk.

   His adventures, thanks to the "Marvel Legacy" movement, are now in the pages of The Incredible Hulk, now with restored original numbering (which will make it fun to sort out the filing process).

   And with original Planet Hulk writer, Greg Pak, at the helm, Cho / Hulk has returned to the planet Sakaar - and so far, it looks like a return to greatness.

   (But I admit, I picked up this issue hoping for the return of Banner. He's "my" Hulk, after all.)

   Still, its great to see this book on track again.

Grade: A

-------------------

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Apologies

   Readers, my apologies for the lack of posts for the past few days - your pal Chuck has been swamped with other demands (nothing life threatening, thankfully).

   But rest assured he'll be back to posting (and getting caught up) by the end of the weekend.

   Thanks for hanging in there!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- ASTRO CITY #48 - The fate of G-Dog!

- CHAMPIONS #13 - Crossover with the Avengers!

- DOCTOR STRANGE #26 - A final house call?

- FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #3 - The secret of Metallus revealed!

- INCREDIBLE HULK #709 - Return to Planet Hulk.

- INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #593 - The search for Tony Stark.

- JUSTICE LEAGUE #31 - The end of everything!

- MAGE HERO DENIED #3 (OF 15) - Hunt for the Fisher King!

- MAESTROS #1 - Death stalks the Royal Family!


- MIGHTY THOR #700 - Death of the Mighty Thor!

- SECRET WARRIORS #7 - Quake vs. Deadpool!

- WILD STORM #8 - Jacob Marlowe's secret revealed!


     And I received these comics to review:

- ACTIONVERSE ONGOING #2 STRAY - Remembering that first mission!

- ASSASSINS CREED UPRISING #8 - One final story.

- DOCTOR WHO 10TH YEAR THREE #10 - The truth about Gabby!

- DOCTOR WHO 12TH YEAR THREE #8 - The Ice Warriors return!

- DOLLFACE #10 - Meeting a good witch.

- FAITH AND THE FUTURE FORCE #4 - The final countdown!

- HERCULES WRATH of the HEAVENS #3 - Facing his own demons!

- NORMANDY GOLD #4 - Seeking revenge!

- TORCHWOOD THE CULLING #1 (OF 4) - Written by John Barrowman!

- WAR MOTHER #3 - Into the badlands.

     And that's it!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Black Panther - Movie Trailer

   Marvel unveiled the newest Black Panther movie trailer today, and it looks mighty impressive.

   Check it out:

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Dan Dare #1

   I have to admit that I've never read any of Dan Dare's adventures.

   Which might not sound surprising, since this is issue #1 - but of course, the hero has been a huge favorite in Great Britain for generations, and has inspired armies of writers and artists.

    The new series from Titan Comics is not a reboot - it makes use of the classic characters, including Dan's right-hand man, Digby, his right-hand woman, Peabody, his pilot Hank, and his deadliest enemy, The Mekon.

   The issue sets up the world of the future, how the Space Fleet ended the menace of The Mekon (or did they?) and what happened next.

   Written by Peter Mulligan and drawn by Alberto Foche, the issue has to cover the basics, and does so with a surprisingly laid-back pace - but by the end of the issue, things start crackling.

   The good news is, you don't have to have any previous knowledge of the series - it brings you up to speed quickly - and you can see why the series is beloved.

   It plays it straight, but there's also a playful sense about it - it's a fun series, with lots of potential.

   No doubt that's one reason why Dan Dare is a classic!

Grade: A-

--------------