Wednesday, September 20, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- AVENGERS #11 - Secret Empire aftermath!

- BUG THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #4 (OF 6) - Look out for robot Deadman!

- CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #12 - The secret of the eye!

- DOCTOR STRANGE #25 - Anniversary issue!

- FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #2 - Space Ghost! The Herculoids! Mettalus! Take my money!

- INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #11 - An international incident!

- JUSTICE LEAGUE #29 - What are the JL's future children hiding?

- WILD STORM #7 - What is John Colt's secret?


   And here are the review copies I received:

- ALL NEW FATHOM #8 - The finale!

- BLOODSHOT SALVATION #1 - Building a family.

- KID SHERLOCK #4 - Terror stalks the school!

- MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN FRED FREDERICKS DAILIES VOL. 1 - A classic collection!

- MIRACULOUS #15 - A deadly new foe!

- MISBEGOTTEN RUNAWAY NUN #1 - Who can save the holy clone?

- SECRET WEAPONS #4 (OF 4) - A robotic killer unleashed!

- TOYETICA #2 - Winning over a new student.

- WONDER WOMAN 77 BIONIC WOMAN #6 (OF 6) - The fate of the free world hangs in the balance!

- ZOMBIE TRAMP ONGOING #39 - Fighting her closest ally!


   And that's it!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"Tomb Raider" and "Punisher" Trailers

   A couple of comic book-related trailers have been released recently (both are violent, so be warned) - including this one starring Lara Croft, from the video game (and later comic book series) Tomb Raider. 

   It's obviously based on the more recent video game version, who is a bit more (shall we say) realistic in her personality and personal dimensions (they are, by the way, very good games):



   And we also have the newest Netflix series, a brutal version of Marvel's killer vigilante, The Punisher.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Generations: Captain Marvel & Captain Mar-Vell #1

   Well, I had high hopes for this issue of Generations, because I was a big fan of Captain Marvel - or, as he's named here, Captain Mar-Vell.

   The Kree warrior was sent to Earth on a secret mission and found he liked the people there - so he became a defender of Earth.

   His career followed a strange path, finally settling down as the first regular series written and drawn by Jim Starlin - and he became the first hero to defeat Thanos.

   This issue reunites that character with the hero who carries his name in the modern Marvel Universe - Carol Danvers.

   Sadly, this story doesn't give any of them much to do, as they find themselves fighting to defend an alien race of pacifists.

   But so many things don't make sense here, including the location of the story, the speech pattern of Mar-Vell, and the fact that he doesn't recognize Carol. Granted that she wasn't a superhero when they met, but only her hairstyle is different.

   She doesn't get to do much except be temperamental. There was so much potential here - why not meet the Mar-Vell who was cosmically aware? ("Hi, Carol. How's life in the future?") Or the green-and-white costumed version, who was new to the Earth and trying to figure out human customs?

   Appearances by Mar-Vell are so rare, but this one was squandered. Too bad.

Grade: C+

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Ninjak #0

   If it's Ninjak #0, then it must be time to give readers a fresh start to this classic super spy / martial artist / superhero from Valiant Comics.

   And that's what you get here - a solid recap of the high (and low) points of Colin King's life and career, including a grim childhood and a life of learning extraordinary fighting skills.

   It's all a setup for the newest series and a fresh start for the enduring hero.

   A sharp script by Matt Kind that bounces between flashbacks and present-day mayhem, and exciting visuals by artist Francis Portela make this a strong start to the latest reboot.

Grade: A

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Runaways #1

   As a fan of the original series (which you really should read if you haven't already), I'm glad to see the return of the Runaways.

   It was a unique concept that teamed up a group of super-powered kids / friends who had to run away from some powerful enemies.

   The series was loaded with great stories and unexpected twists, but sadly, it didn't last.

   With word of an upcoming TV series, it's back, but the first story has a surprisingly narrow focus.

   It sets out to fix one of the mistakes (well, I thought it was a mistake) from an earlier series - namely, the death of a key character.

   I don't object to the resurrection as much as I question the decision to base the first issue around the effort. It's unexpected, but readers who aren't familiar with the characters might be lost, trying to figure out the characters and their relationships.

   The reason most teams focus their first issue on "getting the team together" is because it's an efficient method for bring the readers into the fold - and giving them several characters to be interested in - hopefully they'll lock in on one or more and want to follow along.

   But this may just be a minor quibble. The writer, Rainbow Rowell, is a pro at Young Adult novels, so we trust she knows what she's doing here, and we expect bigger and better things from future issues.  

Grade: B

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Mister Miracle #2 (of 12)

   I struggled with the first issue of this series, but apparently I should have been more patient with Mister Miracle.

   The second issue also includes some disturbing imagery, and almost seems to be making fun of (or perhaps it's having fun with) the original Kirby concept - but it also gives us a glimpse of the unexpected turns it promises.

   The focus here is on Scott Free the warrior, fighting alongside his wife, the warrior Big Barda, in defense of New Genesis and Highfather (though you might be surprised by that character's face).

   Reality seems to be in flux here, and it's a brutal existence.

   Writer Tom King and artist Mitch Gerads are taking a unique, adult approach to the series, which is loaded with mystery and meaning.

   It's not for everyone, and it's a long way from the original series - but Mister Miracle is shaping up to be a story to watch out for.

Grade: A-

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dark Nights: Metal #2

   Dark Nights: Metal is doing a good job of setting up a mysterious new menace, and certainly benefits from some terrific, dynamic artwork by Greg Capullo, but there's a problem here.

   The story by Scott Snyder leans hard on similar stories from that team's run on Batman, especially the story that had Batman fighting the entire Justice League.

   The members of the League are trying to stop Batman, who has obtained a terribly dangerous weapon (though it seems to me that the mysterious weapon doesn't fit into current DC continuity - but it's all such a jumble, I could easily be wrong).

   Like the previous story, we see scene after scene of Bruce outwitting and outmaneuvering the world's most powerful heroes, all in an attempt to stop a danger that threatens the world.

   I'm not sure which is more annoying - that Bruce can outwit his team so easily, or that the members of the League wield godlike powers, so (for example) Superman can hear anyone's heartbeat in the world.

   The story may be a bit derivative, but it is a well-crafted comic and manages to end on a heck of a cliffhanger.

   So there's that.

Grade: A-

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

New Comics Day

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

NEIL GAIMAN AMERICAN GODS SHADOWS #7 - A new direction for Shadow.

DARK NIGHTS METAL #2 (OF 6) - Searching for a missing ally.

DEFENDERS #5 - The Punisher strikes!

FLASH #30 - Barry is having a bad day - and it gets worse.

GENERATIONS CAPT MARVEL & CAPT MAR-VELL #1 - Oh Captain my Captain!

GROO PLAY OF GODS #3 - Speaking of making a bad day worse, that's Groo's specialty!

MAGE HERO DENIED #2 (OF 15) - A powerful threat emerges.

MISTER MIRACLE #2 (OF 12)  - Off to war!

RUNAWAYS #1 - On the run again.

SECRET WARRIORS #6 - Facing Deadpool!

SPIRIT #4 (of 5) - The Corpse Makers!

WYNONNA EARP SEASON ZERO #3 (OF 5) - Bringing the fight to the enemy!


   And here are the review copies I received:

AMERIKARATE #6 - A robot crime wave!

ASSASSINS CREED UPRISING #7 

BEST OF HAGAR - Nothing horrible about the classic comic strip!

BLOOD BOWL MORE GUTS MORE GLORY #4 (OF 4) - The final showdown!

DOCTOR WHO 10TH YEAR THREE #9 - Investigating a mysterious Black Hole in space!

EVIL WITHIN #1 - Survivor horror game series continues!

HERCULES WRATH O/T HEAVENS #2 - Hercules faces his greatest enemy!

HERO CATS TP VOL 6 - Bandit meets the Hero Cats!

LOLA XOXO VOL 2 #3

MIRACULOUS #13 - Facing Princess Fragrance!

NINJAK #0 - His past and future revealed!

RIVERS OF LONDON DETECTIVE STORIES #4 (OF 4)

SHINOBI NINJA PRINCESS LIGHTNING ONI #1 - Nanjas vs. Monsters!

TORCHWOOD CLASSICS TP VOL 02

TOTAL TANK GIRL OMNIBUS 

WOLFENSTEIN #1 (OF 2) - A new comic based on the classic game.

   And that's it! Whew!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Classics - Giant-Size X-Men #1

   With the passing this week of writer / editor Len Wein, the thoughts of comics fans all over the world turned to some of his amazing, ground-breaking work - and I'd argue that his most lasting impact came from this issue: Giant-Size X-Men.

   As a huge fan of the original series in the '60s, which featured amazing work by Roy Thomas and Neal Adams, I was stunned when it was canceled. The team (Cyclops, Angel, Beast, Iceman and Marvel Girl) continued to appear in reprints for five years - until this issue appeared in 1975.

   Written and edited by Wein and drawn by Dave Cockrum (who also inked the cover by Gil Kane), the issue focused on a different group of mutants, as Professor Xavier traveled around the world, recruiting new members for his team - but why?

   It gave the team an international cast, as he gathered Storm in Africa, Colossus in Russia, Nightcrawler in Germany, Thunderbird from America, and Wolverine from Canada.

   They joined forces with Cyclops (wearing a new costume), and set out to rescue the original team from a towering menace.

   The fresh new approach to the team, combined with amazing, dynamic artwork by the endlessly inventive Cockrum, created an exciting new comic that quickly became Marvel's most popular title - a ranking it would hold for decades.

    Many fans consider this issue to be the point at which a comics age turned - from Silver to Bronze. (Others place it earlier, at the first issue of Conan the Barbarian, while some point to Kirby's move to DC Comics.)

   Whatever the case, the issue paved the way for Marvel's long-time dominance of the comics market, and forced every title to up its game in an attempt to keep up with the exciting stories being told.

   Others would carry the title to even greater heights, but it all started here - and it's just one of hundreds of great comics created by Wein.

Grade: A+

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Monday, September 11, 2017

4 Kids Walk Into a Bank #5 (of 5)

   This story has demanded patience from its audience - it's taken 15 months to turn out five issues - but finally, with this issue, those kids walk into that bank.

   What writer Matthew Rosenberg has built is a heist story, as the kids - Berger, Pat, Walter and Paige - finally put their complex plan in motion to rob a bank.

   This story manages a surprising balance between real-world sensibilities and flights of fantasy - and it cleverly keeps you guessing as to which is which - and the very real world implications of their actions.

   The art and design are by Tyler Boss, and it features original character designs and a unique style that's compelling and evoke real life without being photorealistic.

   Courtney Menard is credited with wallpaper designs and Clare Dezutti with flatting (and I must admit - I'm not sure what that means). 

   Even though the story focuses on the kids, it's not a book for children - it features adult language and violence. 

   But for those old enough to cope with it, it's a powerful tale and impossible to predict (which is always a good thing).

   Recommended!

Grade: A-

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Happy Anniversary to Us!

   Hey, I almost forgot - today marks the 9th Anniversary of this humble blog!

   I have to admit, Chuck's Comic of the Day started as an experiment - could I actually manage to post every day about comics? Would I be able to sustain my interest? Would comics still exist nine years in the future?

   Turns out the answers were: almost, yes, and yes!

   Thanks to you, gentle reader, for visiting this site, and thanks to our many guest reviewers who have pitched in to help keep that daily deadline at bay!

   Special gratitude to all those who have used our Amazon links while putting in their orders - it sends a small amount of money into Chuck's coffers (which he then uses to buy more comics), and makes this site possible.

   I've missed a few days here and there along the way, but our success rate is high, and I'm certainly having fun - so here's to another year (or more) of blogging!

   Onward and upward!
 

In Memory of Len Wein

   Sad to note the passing today of Len Wein, one of the giants of the modern age of comics.

   A former fan turned pro, he was influential as a writer, editor and creator for both Marvel and DC Comics.

   How influential? Well, as a co-creator he invented Wolverine (during Wein's great run on The Incredible Hulk), Swamp Thing, the Human Target and the New X-Men (including Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Thunderbird). 

   As a writer he breathed fresh life into some classic characters, turning in terrific stories on the Phantom Stranger, Batman, Thor, the Justice League, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Marvel Team-Up, Green Lantern, Blue Beetle and Star Trek.

   As an editor he guided the classic Watchmen and Camelot 3000 mini-series, and worked a stint as Editor-in-Chief at Marvel.

   Best of all, he was one of those rare writers who always turned in excellent work - you knew if he was involved, you were holding an entertaining comic.

   I only met him briefly back in the late '80s, and he struck me as both smart and kind, willing to share his time to talk to the fans - and I think, right up to the end, he was a fan, too.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Champions #12

   There are few comics characters who have been more badly treated in recent years than Cyclops.

   The one-time leader of the original and new X-Men has been depicted in the past as a terrific, Captain America-level leader, a true hero and a powerhouse mutant.

   Until they decided to turn him into a villain and kill him off. (Don't get me started on how dumb this is, and how disrespectful to a great character.)

   Thankfully, we have the original Cyclops back again, time-traveling with his team to the present - and now he's also a member of The Champions.

   He's the focus of this issue, as we (and his team) get some insights on why he's so serious, why he has to be in control, and why his powers are more of a curse than a blessing.

   It's a touching story, built around a running fight with one of Marvel's most cunning and challenging villains.

   It's wonderful to see Cyclops - and the other members of the team - showing their real potential and being shown off to good effect. And there's actual good-natured humor included!

   It's another excellent outing by writer Mark Waid and artists Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba - and thankfully, we're apparently done with the Secret Empire foolishness.

Grade: A-

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Astro City #47

   Who's a good boy? (Wags tail.) Yes you are!

   I admit that I'm crazy about dogs. I've had four in my lifetime, each one a treasured family member - so this story, loaded with humor and a genuine affection for "Man's Best Friend" makes for a heckuva treat.

   It follows a young man named Andy who's struggling with the bad decisions in his life - but then he adopts Hank, a Welsh Corgi, and he life begins to change.

   The changes are both small and large, as he finds (through a mystic mishap) that he's able to merge with Hank, so they becomes a small but powerful super-hero.

   It's a sweet story from Kurt Busiek as we see how a friend - even a tiny one - can change a life.

   The guest artist is Mike Norton, and he was born to craft this kind of down-to-Earth, street-level tale of adventure and affection.

   I just kept smiling through the whole story - so of course I wasn't prepared at all for that final page, which any dog owner can relate to.

   What a fun issue - one of the year's best! Highly recommended!

Grade: A+

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Star Wars Adventures #1

   This is a fun idea.

   IDW has created a modern version of the old "split" comic - one that includes two features (one 15 pages long, the other 7 pages, plus some pinups), all drawn in a kid-friendly style and focusing on different members (and different eras) from the Star Wars universe.

   The main story focuses on Rey, the hero from The Force Awakens in her days as a scavenger before the events in the film.

   When her "business associate" (the creature that buys the items she finds) is kidnapped, only Rey is willing and able to attempt a rescue - and what mysterious secret does a damaged robot hold?

   The second story introduces a few new characters - and features an appearance by Obi-Wan Kenobi.

   The stories are pretty thin, but this is a comic that's perfect for the young reader just discovering the Star Wars universe and, perhaps, not quite ready for the more grim side of the action.

Grade: B+

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

New Comics Day

    Lots of comics on the stack this week! Here's what I picked up today:

- ASTRO CITY #47 - Who's a good dog?

- BANE CONQUEST #5 (OF 12) - A rematch with Catwoman!

- CHAMPIONS #12 - Secret Empire aftermath!

- DAREDEVIL #26 - In the land of the blind!

- DOOM PATROL #8 - Hey, don't eat that!

- GREEN HORNET 66 MEETS SPIRIT #3 (OF 5) - The threat of Armageddon!

- HAWKEYE #10 - She aims to be troublesome.

- IRON FIST #7 - Shang-Chi attacks! 

- JESSICA JONES #12 - Dark secrets revealed!

- JUSTICE LEAGUE #28 - Attack by a former friend from the future!

- STAR WARS ADVENTURES #1 - Adventures for all ages!

- USAGI YOJIMBO #161 - A murder mystery!


     And I received review copies of:

- 4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK #5 - They finally arrive at the bank!

- ACTIONVERSE ONGOING #1 STRAY - On the brink of civil war!

- BEAUTIFUL CANVAS #3 - Who will save the city?

- DARK SOULS ARTIST EDITION - Stunning art inspired by the series.

- DOCTOR WHO 12TH HC VOL 07 - Danger by the sea!

- DOCTOR WHO 9TH DOCTOR YEAR TWO #1 - An unknown force strikes from space!

- DOLLFACE VOL 02 - Adventures in sunny California!

- EVIL WITHIN #1 - The sequel to the survivor / horror game.

- HARBINGER RENEGADE #7 - Off the grid and on the move!

- HERO CATS MIDNIGHT OVER STELLAR CITY VOL 2 #3 - An all-out assault on the city!

- INFINITE SEVEN #7 - The secret history of their greatest enemy!

- MILLENNIUM GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE #1 (OF 2) - The second chapter in the series begins!

- NO WORLD #5 - A dimension threatens to swallow the Earth!

- PENNY DREADFUL #5 - Lucifer has risen!

- SHERLOCK THE GREAT GAME #2 (OF 6) - Continuing the TV adaptation.

- TEKKEN #4 (OF 4) - The final showdown!

- ZOMBIE TRAMP ORIGINS #3 - Wrapping up the reprint of the original mini-series!

- ZOMBIE TRAMP VOL 11 DEMON DAMES & SCANDALOUS GAMES - Evil plans are afoot!

And that's it!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension: Part 1

   I have to admit that I'm a fan of both Doctor Who and the stories that bring together more than one Doctor.

   And you get that in this story - in spades!

   The focus is on the most recent incarnations - Doctors 9, 10, 11 and 12 - but there are plenty of other guest stars in this fun, fast-paced story that left me with a smile on my face throughout.

   Written by George Mann and Cavan Scott, it gives us a massive, universe-destroying threat that brings together some well-known Time Lords.

   The art is by Rachael Stott with five other artists also credited, and we get some very good depictions of the Doctors and lots of entertaining antics and environments.

   It's all part of a big, rollicking story that's going to weave in and out of several issues. It's an eight-part saga, and it'll continue into the books that star Doctors 9, 10, 11 and 12 (plus lots of guest stars), and then back into the "Lost Dimension" mini-series!

   Lots of fun, and highly recommended to any fans of the Doctor!

Grade: A-

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Monday, September 4, 2017

Faith and the Future Force #2

   Time travel stories can be very powerful - and very dicey to manage.

   It's at the heart of the story unfolding in Faith and the Future Force,  as a mysterious, seeming indestructible robot threatens to  damage space and time itself, so the time-traveling Neela Timewalker (no Doctor Who references, please) recruits Faith to destroy the mechanism.

   But last issue, that plan didn't exactly work out - so they're going to try again this time around, only with more firepower.

   It's a classic time-travel adventure theme to repeat the same story over and over, with minor changes, trying to find the path to victory, and it's a theme put to good use here as the danger continues to escalate.

   As with all such stories, it doesn't pay to think too hard about the proceedings (lest the whole story unravel), but so far it's building nicely into a big (but self-contained) event - and it's a lot of fun, too!

Grade: A-

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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Generations Hawkeye & Hawkeye #1

   With the Generations mini-series Marvel Comics is leaning terribly close to creating a Silver Age DC Comic (that's not entirely intended as a criticism).

   I say that because the entire concept of "modern" versions of heroes going back in time to meet a more classic edition of the hero they were based on seems all too convenient - a "gift" from the Cosmic Cube in the wake of Secret Empire.

   Why the gift? Who knows?

   But that being said, this issue focuses on the two Hawkeyes - the original, Clint Barton, and the young woman with the same hero name, the funny and personable Kate Bishop.

   They find themselves on an island taking part in a deadly competition between some of the world's greatest marksmen, trying to prove which one is the best.

   What makes the issue is the interaction between the two heroes - they're witty and smart and have a lot of fun with the whole "dangers of saying too much and revealing the future" element of time travel.

   It's a fun fast-paced adventure by writer Kelly Thompson, and the art by Stefano Raffael is outstanding, adding lots of spirit and energy to the competition.

   They may duplicate each other's schtick, but these are two heroes who are better together.

   But preferably in the modern day.

Grade: A-

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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Secret Empire #10 (of 10)

   Finally, our long national nightmare is over, as Marvel crawls across the finish line with the final issue of Secret Empire, the most annoying event in recent memory.

   You know the story: Captain America (Steve Rogers) had his history altered so, instead of being Marvel's greatest hero, he's actually an agent of Hydra! (Gasp!)

   And he somehow managed to lead Hydra in a takeover of the United States! (How? Don't ask pesky questions.)

   And he took control of a space shield that protected the Earth but blocked out all the alien races, although none of them were willing to help Earth's heroes because they'd completely forgotten how we saved the universe during the Infinity series. (Selective memory, no doubt.)

   And he trapped all of New York's heroes behind a dark dome that was nothing like that Stephen King novel.

   Anyway, this issue brings us the final showdown, as Evil Cap (powered by the Cosmic Cube) manages to destroy... well, that would be telling. We do get the final battle that is confusing but does its best to give us back the real Cap.

   So we've had a two-year series that has worked hard at tearing the reputation of Captain America into shreds. Wonder how long it'll take them to restore his good name - if ever?

   Marvel, as a long-time fan, here's my request: no more stories like this, I beg you. Comic book "reality" is already tenuous enough. When you start rewriting it willy-nilly, it all threatens to fall down.

   Of course, the good news is: it's over! (I know, there are still an "Aftermath" issue. I'll be ignoring it.)

Grade: D

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Darkseid Special #1

   Of all the characters Jack Kirby created during his run at DC during the early '70s, none has had more of a lasting impact than the villain Darkseid.

   That's because he filled a real void at DC - for a powerful, ruthless villain who was at the same time deep and thoughtful - but still able to go toe-to-toe with any DC hero, including Superman.

   While there were occasional powerhouses in the ranks of the bad guys at DC, they were pretty thin - or had thin reasons for being villains. Most were either criminals (Flash's Rogues, many of Batman's foes), crazy (the Joker) or jealous (Luthor).

   But Darkseid was a god looking for ultimate control through the Anti-Life Equation (whatever that was). While in more recent times he's been portrayed as a towering, Hulk-like giant, I prefer the Kirby version: human-sized but rippling with menace and power.

   This issue, written by former Kirby assistant Mark Evanier and drawn by the talented Scott Kolins, is the slim story of a trio who have escaped from Darkseid's training and threaten his rule in unexpected ways.

   Of all these specials that I've read, this one seems closest to the kind of story that Kirby would have written, with a mix of action and surprising revelations about the title character.

   There's also a nifty backup story featuring one of my favorite Kirby characters, OMAC (the One Man Army Corps) taking on a surprising foe.

   I hesitate to recommend a comic that "stars" a villain, but this one is a treat.

Grade: A-

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Infamous Iron Man #11

   For the past few months, I've had the same conversation, over and over, with my friend Bill.

   He says, "Are you reading Infamous Iron Man?"

   I answer, "No."

   "Why not?"

   "I can't buy everything."

   "Yeah, but it's really good."

   "Is it?"

   "The stories have been great."

   "I did like the character's appearance in The Avengers."

   "There you go. You should buy it."

   So I did.

   And guess what?

   Bill's right. It's a ripping good yarn as Dr. Doom is on the run from something that managed to scare even him.

   Showing up to help him - sort of - is The Thing and Doctor Strange (with typically sharp dialogue). And showing up to harm him is an old enemy.

   The art by Alex Maleev is excellent (although his version of the Thing seems a bit off for some reason).

   I really liked it!

   Guess what?

   As much as I hate to admit it - Infamous Iron Man is really good!

Grade: A

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- BLACK RACER & SHILO NORMAN SPECIAL #1 - A race with death!

- DARKSEID SPECIAL #1 - Can anyone escape Apokolips?

- GENERATIONS HAWKEYE & HAWKEYE #1 - The archers meet again for the first time!

- INFAMOUS IRON MAN #11 - The return of the most important person in Doom's life.

- SAGA #46 - An operation and a farewell.

- SECRET EMPIRE #10 (OF 10) - The end at last!


   And I received these review copies:

- ALL NEW SOULFIRE #6 - The 
war between light and dark continues!

- DOCTOR WHO 11TH YEAR THREE #9 - An instinct for mass destruction!

- DOCTOR WHO LOST DIMENSION ALPHA #1 - What is the Lost Dimension and how many Doctors are needed to find it?

- FAITH AND THE FUTURE FORCE #2 (OF 4) - Adventures in the time stream!

- KIM AND KIM LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD #2 - The Kims are broke and stranded.

- MIRACULOUS ADVENTURES LADYBUG CAT NOIR #2 - It's the Trash Krakken!

- RAPTURE #4 - Shadowman strikes back!

- ROBOTECH #2 - All new adventures!

- SANTERIA THE GODDESS KISS #4 (OF 5) - 
Naomi confronts the true forces of evil!

- SPACE RIDERS GALAXY OF BRUTALITY #3 - Sending the galaxies into the Age of the Abyss!

- THERE'S NOTHING THERE #4 - Exposed and in the public eye!

- VAMPBLADE SEASON TWO #6 - A Danger Doll Squad tie-in!

   And that's it!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Classics - Jimmy Olsen #133

   Continuing our celebration of Jack Kirby's 100th birthday, let's take a look at his first DC Comic after his long run at Marvel.

   No, it wasn't the New Gods - it was issue #133 of Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen.

   As part of his new contract with DC, the powers that be were willing to let Jack create new comics - but they wanted him to do an established DC title, too.

   It's been reported that his big concern was not taking a job away from someone in the industry, so he told them he'd take anything, as long as it was a book that didn't have an existing creative team.

   So they gave him Jimmy Olsen.

   You have to wonder if he even looked at previous issues of the title. After years and years of Jimmy getting into strange adventures, usually resulting in a goofy transformation of some kind, suddenly he's dropped in the middle of a wild, over-the-top science fiction adventure.

   With his usual burst of incredible creativity, Kirby gives us: the new Newsboy Legion (descendants of the original group); the (unfortunately-named) Whiz Wagon, which provides transportation to the team (and looks like an amped-up Fantasticar); the strange land known as the Wild Area, which is inhabited by all kinds of bizarre characters, massive machinery and more than a few mysteries.

   Oh, and you get Superman, too! (Though it's disturbing to see Kirby's version of the Man of Steel so obviously redrawn by diverse hands.)

   It's wild, over the top and doesn't always make sense - but it's a heck of a lot of fun and was a great shot in the arm for a title that had become much too predictable.

   It's not Kirby's best, but even his lesser efforts are better than most!

Grade: B+

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Kirby at 100 - a Fan's View

   It's been great to see so many tributes to artist / writer / comics creator Jack Kirby, on his 100th birthday.

   Rightly hailed the King of Comics (a title bestowed by the man who became the ultimate source for comics creator nicknames, Stan Lee), Kirby spent decades charting a new course for the industry, often working in complete (or near-complete) anonymity.

   I probably first encountered his work in the early '60s in one of those classic Marvel monster magazines, like Strange Tales or Tales of Suspense or Tales to Astonish, where he created special effect nightmares like Fin Fang Foom and Groot and Goom and dozens of others.

   And I have to admit, when I first ran into it, I wasn't crazy about his art. (Hey, I was a kid - what did I know?)

   I grew up on DC's slickest artists - Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson. Kirby's work seemed, well, crude by comparison.

   Then I encountered the Fantastic Four.

   I'm not sure which issue was the first, but one that really stands out in my memory is this encounter with Doctor Doom. After a back-and-forth battle, Doom traps the team in a room that features a special trap - the floor starts to open up a portal into outer space! It was a wild concept and downright terrifying to my young self - I was absolutely hooked!

   That was the point when I started moving away from DC and into Marvel's loving embrace. The stories were terrific, with wild action sequences, lots of heart, heroic stunts and characters who felt like real people.

   And I found that I was really starting to enjoy the art, too! It was dynamic, powerful and bristled with imagination and genius.

   It slowly dawned on me that the best comics - the ones I read over and over - were almost always the ones created by Stan and Jack. They managed an amazing balance between heart and humor and action.

   I don't pretend to know who did what on the comics they created - I wasn't there, and neither were you (unless you're Stan Lee). All I know is, they hit gold when they worked together. Maybe it was the freedom Kirby had to craft the stories to his liking, maybe it was Lee's wordcraft or humor or heartfelt touch that made the difference. Whatever it was, it worked (and how)!

   The natural evolution was to add another team of heroes to Marvel's lineup - so I grabbed the first issue of The Avengers I saw, issue #3, which featured a team-up of the Sub-Mariner and the Hulk taking on Iron Man, Thor, Giant-Man and the Wasp!

   It was an amazing action romp, and I did my best to never miss another issue.

   The same team was also responsible for the solo adventures of the Mighty Thor, and each story seemed to get bigger from month to month, with wild concepts and cosmic menaces, from galactic conquerors to living planets and world-eaters.

   For almost a decade, all was well as Lee and Kirby continued to crank out stunning stories, amazing annuals - never missing deadlines, always entertaining.

   And then, shockingly, it ended.

   Comic artists had been known to change companies from time to time, but it was pretty rare. Infantino and Anderson worked at DC for decades, but Gil Kane did do work for Marvel and DC. And of course John Romita, John Buscema, Gene Colan and Don Heck (to name just a few) had all done work elsewhere - but I didn't know anything about that. I just thought Kirby would always be at Marvel.

   But as the '60s ended, Kirby took his creative genius and moved over to DC, where he created a brand new universe based around the New Gods. And once again, I have to admit that, at first, I wasn't crazy about it.

     Some of it was the art. Vince Colletta's inks, which worked well on the fantasy-based Thor, didn't seem a good match on the science fiction-based world of New Genesis. Mike Royer, who took over shortly after, didn't seem like an improvement - the pencils seemed more crude than before, though still powerful.

   I finally realized that this was raw Kirby art and I finally warmed to it. (Hey, I was a stupid teen - what did I know?)

   I still struggled with the dialogue. The stories had the old creative spark, but the dialogue was often clumsy - at least as compared to the comics written by Stan. Some of it was ingenious, but most of it was rough around the edges.

   It was obvious Kirby was playing on a big stage here, creating new characters and villains at a dizzying speed - Orion, Darkseid, the Forever People, the Infinity Man, Lightray, Mister Miracle, Big Barda - the list goes on and on.

   It was successful in that it brought me back to DC in a big way. I still mostly bought Marvel, but I was more likely to give DC's books a try from that point on.

   Sadly, either the sales didn't meet expectations or DC bungled the promotion - or perhaps the books were just a few years ahead of their time - but they didn't last and were canceled after a short run.

   Kirby kept creating new books, but it always felt like he was afraid to crank his creativity too high, so we got more mainstream efforts like Kamandi and the Demon - fun books, but Jack could do better.

   Just as surprisingly, after a few more years, Jack left DC and returned to Marvel, but not to work with Stan again (other than the excellent Silver Surfer graphic novel). Instead, Jack continued to write his own comics, and even though he was handling Captain America, all his comics avoided the rest of the Marvel characters - so he was off in his own corner with The Eternals and the Black Panther.

   Of course, I bought it all - even Jack's lesser efforts were well worth the price of admission.

   Eventually, he left again. He did work in animation, and when the so-called Independent market struggled to its feet, he was there with new and daring creations like Captain Victory and Silver Star.

   Eventually age took its toll and Jack left us in 1994. But thankfully, he lives on through the reprints of his amazing body of work, and in the work created by the artists and writers he inspired.

   And now, incredibly, his work can be seen on the big screen, influencing both the Marvel and DC cinematic worlds.

   I often wonder if, back in the early '60s when he was cranking out 100 pages of art and story every month for modest wages, reaching an audience of mostly very young readers, could even someone with Kirby's amazing imagination have pictured a time when fans around the world would anxiously await the next adventure? Could he have imagined that the franchises would be worth billions of dollars?

   Happily, he's now, finally getting the recognition he's long deserved. Tributes are raining in, his family has benefited from a (by all indications) generous endowment from Disney, he was recently named a Disney Legend, and the films and comics credit creations like The Avengers and Thor to Stan and Jack - and Captain America to Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

   One can only hope that these things bring a smile to Jack in the afterlife, as he sits down to his heavenly drawing board to create new and exciting adventures for his ever-growing hordes of fans.

   Sorry I ever doubted you, Jack. What can I say?

   How about: Hail to the King!


 





Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Baker Street Four, Vol. 1

   This book arrived on my "to be reviewed" stack in a unique way.

   My lovely wife serves on the local county library board, and her duties led her recently to visit Chicago for a gathering of like-minded folks.

   She attended a seminar that featured the creators of The Baker Street Four, a series of graphic novels published in France that follow the adventures of some of the children who are assistants to Sherlock Holmes.

   She was so impressed by them that she bought a copy of the first volume, and artist David Etien was kind enough to do a detailed sketch on the inside cover. (I think he was sweet on her.)

   As you can see,  the art is wonderful, bringing to life the bustling streets of Victorian England and peopling it with living, breathing characters, including the scrappy kids Billy, Tom and Charlie.

   (But wait, you say - who's the fourth member of the team? I puzzled on that a while and finally figured it out - it's Charlie's cat.)

   You won't see a lot of Sherlock in this volume, but you'll see why he trusts his young charges to be his eyes and ears on the street.

   They're smart (in a roughhewn way) and dedicated.

   The volume includes two stories - one where the trio must rescue a girl from a terrible fate, and another where a murderer is on the loose - and a riot is brewing.

   Written by J. B Djian and Olivier Legrand, the stories are clever and offer many surprises and insights on life in the 19th Century.

   Whether you're a fan of the Holmes stories or just enjoy a good kid gang tale, this is a very satisfying volume - and hopefully just the beginning for the adaptations for American audiences.

   I admit a little prejudice, since the creators were nice to my wife - but it's easy to give this a hearty recommendation, because it's outstanding work.

Grade: A

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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Archie #23

   The All-New Archie falls into an interesting niche between the classic, comedy-centered Archie comic and the popular Riverdale TV show, which tends to be grim and angsty (though I base that on the only two episodes I've seen).

   Under the skillful hand of writer Mark Waid, this series manages to combine comedy with a more realistic lifestyle for the teens of Riverdale.

   The latest story has veered into the territory of drama and soap opera as a terrible accident promises to affect the lives of several characters.

   Betty was injured in an accident when she tried to stop a drag race between Archie and Reggie - and her life has been changed for the foreseeable future.

   It's tough to balance such a serious topic with the slapstick antics of the eternally well-intentioned Archie, but thanks to the heart of the characters involved, this story manages to walk that line.

   The art by Audrey Mok is outstanding, capturing the emotion and assorted antics of the cast nicely.

   The Archie concept - following the lives of teens in high school - is an enduring one, and it can be adapted to different formats. Thank goodness!

Grade: B+

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Manhunter Special #1

   The Jack Kirby tributes DC has been cranking out to observe and/or celebrate his 100th birthday have really been a mixed bag.

   This one, centering on the Golden Age Manhunter, probably does the best job of capturing the Kirby "feel" to a comic, thanks to the art by Keith Giffen and Mark Bunckingham.

   They channel Kirby's kinetic action, bold artwork and crazy musculature, while filling the pages with an extensive action sequence, centering around a crazed Manhunter trying to capture a small army of criminals.

   (Why is he crazed? Beats me. Why does he sneer at bullets, and why can't the crooks manage to shoot him despite being heavily armed? No clue.)

   To add to the fun, another Golden Age hero drops by for some brawling. Don't expect much in the way of plot here - just lots of action.

   The backup story is a treat - a short gem by artist Steve Rude and co-writer Sam Humphries featuring The Demon. The story is slight, but the art's a treat.

   This issue mostly misses the heart that was always evident in Kirby's stories, deciding to focus instead on the action side of the equation - but at least that is well done.

Grade: B+

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Generations: The Unworthy Thor & The Mighty Thor #1

   I'm not exactly sure what the point of the Generations series is, other than picking up some easy sales and (possibly) soothing the concerns about classic heroes expressed by some of Marvel's fans.

   This story promises a team-up of the female version of The Mighty Thor and the original version, known these days as The Unworthy Thor.

   And it sorta kinda delivers, as it tells a story from hundreds of years ago, as a small armada of Vikings decide to plunder Ancient Egypt, for no logical reason I can discern.

   When they run up against an ancient power, they call on Thor to help - but instead the get two Thors in the bargain.

   I have no idea why M.T. is traveling through time (and I haven't picked up any of the other Generations books, so no help there).

   And sadly she's running into Thor before he is able to wield the hammer Mjolnir, so he's shocked to find someone else doing it with ease.

   It's actually fun story by Jason Aaron with strong artwork by Mahmud Asrar (though they've forgotten that, in the Marvel Universe, Odin's eyepatch is a recent acquisition).

   But the story doesn't seem to accomplish much beyond bringing the two Thors together.

   That's nice, but it feels a bit thin (in emotional content, though not page count) for a comic that costs five bucks.

Grade: B+

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