Monday, July 31, 2017

Faith and the Future Force #1

   The flying female known as Faith keeps getting recruited to join super-hero teams - but it usually doesn't work out.

   Perhaps her luck will change with the Future Force - but I wouldn't count on it.

   She's at work in her "civilian" job and keeping a low profile because her superhero identity has been framed for murder. (Don't you hate it when that happens?)

   She's confronted by a mysterious woman wearing high-tech armor - so of course Faith happily goes off with her on a mission.

   As you might expect from a team named Future Force, there's time-travel involved, and a deadly menace from the past.

   Equal parts action and humor (with some science fiction thrown in for good measure), this series is off to a promising start.

   The script by Jody Houser is sharp and funny, and the art by Stephen Segovia and Berry Kitson is very good, with strong layouts and great character designs.

   The issue brings up some problematical concepts, but the team sorting them out promises to be fun.

Grade: A-

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Doom Patrol #7

    One of the few missteps in Grant Morrison's excellent run on the Doom Patrol back in the '90s was (minor spoiler here) that one of the last stories turned team founder "The Chief" Niles Caulder into a villain.

   This issue,  a particularly offbeat one in the Young Animal version of the team, takes some steps to correct that misstep and bring the Chief back into the fold of the team.

   Along the way we get a return of the original costumes - well, the red and white costumes, not the original drab green (which I always liked). Even Robotman gets his original body back - temporarily.

   As the cover indicates, it's a mind-trip of an adventure, written by Gerard Way and drawn by the wonderful Mike Allred, who brings a delightful Silver Age sheen to the adventure.

   This series has been a good balance between modern storytelling sensibilities, Morrison's strange vision for the team, and the original concepts of freaks fighting for humanity.

   Lots of fun!

Grade: A-

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Kamandi Challenge #7 (of 12)

   This fun series continues to roll along as something of a tribute to Kamandi's creator, Jack Kirby, who would have been 100 years old this year.

   For those who came in late (to borrow a phrase), Kamandi is the last boy on Earth, lost in a world of intelligent, talking and anthropomorphic animals.

   The Challenge part comes from the idea that each issue will feature a different creative team (for this issue, it's writer Marguerite Bennett and artists Dan Jurgens and Klaus Janson), and each issue ends on a cliffhanger that the next team has to solve.

   Last issue left Kamandi falling to his death into a nuclear reactor - but he manages to avoid that fate in the best B-movie tradition.

   This issue takes an unusual turn as Kamandi faces off against a small army of dogs - and death on the ice!

   It's all light and fast and furious, and thankfully Kamandi gets to show some initiative this issue, instead of just barely managing to survive the latest crisis.

   My only quibble is the Snickers commercial in the middle of the issue, which looks like it should be part of the regular story - but it isn't.

   So,  no big revelations or shocks (aside from the last page) - it's just a lot of fun!

   Not a bad tribute to the King and all!

Grade: B+

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Batman / The Shadow #4 (of 6)

   I cannot understand why I'm not loving this mini-series.

   I'm a huge mark (fan) of The Shadow. I'm a big fan of The Batman. I've enjoyed past crossovers that brought them together. It's co-written by Scott Snyder, who's written some excellent Batman stories.

   But so far, this one just hasn't jelled for me.

   Some of it is typical comic book tropes - for example, twice so far we've seen Batman suffer terrible, crippling injuries - and he shakes them off.

   The villains are similarly immune to bullet wounds, so matter how severe.

   We've seen The Shadow, who's a deadly shot, face an army of villains at close range, fire his gun constantly - and do only minimal damage.

   These are only minor quibbles, but for some reason they stick in the craw of my enjoyment of this series. (If that makes sense.)

   I love the idea of these two Dark Knights facing off over their methods, but that's just not getting it done.

   Maybe if they faced more deathtraps...

Grade: B

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles / Usagi Yojimbo (One Shot)

   This month we learn the reason behind the short hiatus for Usagi Yojimbo - it was to give artist and writer Stan Sakai time to create this giant-size adventure that teams the samurai warrior with his old friends, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

   And what a treat it is!

   Usagi, a samurai without a master, is recruited by a mystic who looks a lot like the rat-like Splinter on a mission to save Japan from the most unusual destructive menace ever (trust me on this).

   Opposing them is an army of warriors and the demonic, soul-destroying Jei.

   Not to worry - Usagi manages to recruit (in a clever way) the Ninja Turtles - though, of course, in proper comic book fashion, they have to fight each other before they can team up.

   The book is a pure delight, loaded with action, mystical menace and the deadliest villain around.

   It was well worth the wait!

Grade: A

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- BATMAN THE SHADOW #4 (OF 6) (DC) - Who will save the villains from The Shadow?

- CAPTAIN AMERICA STEVE ROGERS #19 (Marvel) - Secret Empire tie-in!

- DOOM PATROL #7 (DC) - Hail to the Chief!

- FLASH #27 (DC) - Final showdown with the Reverse-Flash!

- KAMANDI CHALLENGE #7 (OF 12) (DC) - Fight to survive!

- SAGA #45 (Image) - Into the badlands!

- SECRET EMPIRE #7 (OF 10) (Marvel) - Time to die.

- TMNT USAGI YOJIMBO (IDW) - Crossover time!



   And I received these review copies:

- ALL NEW SOULFIRE #5 (Aspen) - Action, adventure and fantasy collide!

- BEAUTIFUL CANVAS #2 (Black Mask) - Trying to save a child.

- BLACK #6 (OF 6) (Titan) - Stopping a war before it starts.

- DOCTOR WHO 10TH YEAR THREE #7 (Titan) - A warning from the future!

- DOCTOR WHO 11TH YEAR THREE #7 (Titan) - Attack of the memory parasites!

- DOCTOR WHO 9TH #14 (Titan) - The Bidding War continues!

- DOLLFACE #7 (Titan) - Fighting a witch!

- FAITH AND THE FUTURE FORCE #1 (OF 4) (Valiant) - Fight across the centuries.

- KID SHERLOCK #2 (Titan) - Show and tell is disrupted by disaster.

- LITTLE NIGHTMARES #2 (OF 4) (Titan) - A terrifying world!

- MEDISIN #3 (Titan) - Caught between two supervillains.

- MILLENNIUM GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO #2 (Titan) - Solving a mystery.

- NO WORLD #4 (Aspen) - Teaming up to stop a threat!


- ROBOTECH #1 (Titan) - The classic returns!

- TEKKEN #3 (OF 4) (Titan) - Facing an army of robots!

- TOMBOY #12 (Titan) - The shocking conclusion!

- VAMPBLADE SEASON TWO #5 (Titan) - Back to basics.

- X-O MANOWAR #5 (2017) (Valiant) - A cosmic coup d'etat!

   And that's it! Whew!



ROBOTECH #1 (Titan) - The classic returns!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Secret Weapons #2

   You have to give credit when a comic tries something different - and Secret Weapons is definitely unusual.

   It's avoiding most of the usual "team comic" tropes and taking a different approach.

   So we have a team that doesn't wear costumes, has odd powers and doesn't really seem to be driven to fight the bad guys.

   Oh, there's an action scene in this issue, but it's the team defending itself from an attack by a mysterious and deadly foe.

  And quite a bit of the issue is given over to a discussion as the team sits around the dinner table!

   The art by Raul Allen and Patricia Martin is very good, with strong layouts and excellent environment designs. The characters are well defined, and even though they're not wearing distinctive costumes.

   The only problem is that the issue is too laid back (aside from that action scene) - it's difficult to sort out where it's going.

   The story is starting to build, but requires the reader to be very patient as it sorts itself out. It shows a lot of promise, but it's getting there slowly.

Grade: B

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Spencer & Locke #4

   This is the wrap-up to the opening storyline for the Spencer & Locke series, which is a dark homage (of sorts) to Bill Watterson's classic Calvin & Hobbes comic strip.

    The idea is that the boy, Locke, has grown up and become a police detective - one whose only partner is a stuffed toy panther, Spencer.

   But this is not for kids - it's dark and dangerous as Locke tries to sort out a murder mystery, save a young girl and sort out some issues from his past.

   I'm still on the fence with this one - it's a solid story, with the twists and turns one expects with a mystery, and some good revelations about Locke's story.

   But it still feels very derivative. I wish the creative team had told the story on its own terms, rather than cribbing so much from a classic.

Grade: B

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Invincible Iron Man #9

   There's a convention in comics that I've never cared for - but it's obviously not going away.

   I can accept the usual tropes - magic, super-science, cosmic threats - but I don't like the idea of putting children in harm's way.

   Riri Williams isn't exactly a child (she's a teenager), but it still disturbing to see her taking a beating (even in her armor) at the hands of an army of killer robots.

   Even though she's the Invincible Iron Man (whoops, I mean Ironheart), Riri is impulsive - and this issue finds her invading Latveria to stop the powerful Lucia Von Bardas.

   She quickly finds herself in serious trouble - and her advisor (an artificial intelligence version of Tony Stark) seems to be struggling.

   I know, kids in comics are not going away. Look at The Champions, Robin, Superboy, Kid Flash, the Teen Titans, the original X-Men - kids and teens having been fighting the bad guys almost since the beginning of comics, and it's not going away anytime soon.

   And yes, I know - they're comic book characters, not real-world children, so it's not like actual kids are in danger.

   Call me old fashioned or overprotective, but I'd feel better about it if Riri (or any of those other characters) were at least 21 years old.

Grade: B

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Trailers from Comic Con

   As expected, the San Diego Comic-Con offered teasers for several big films coming up in the near future, and most (though not all) were almost immediately released on the Internet.

   One of the most anticipated was the new Justice League trailer which seems to focus a lot more on Wonder Woman and Aquaman:



   A movie that I'm anxious to see is the video game-based Ready Player One (you really should read that novel by the way - it's great!). It's directed by Steven Spielberg, and the visuals are amazing:



    There's a lot of buzz around the second season of the Netflix TV series, Stranger Things:



   The Netflix series that combines Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones into The Defenders looks like fun:



   But the one that impressed me the most is the new trailer for Thor: Ragnarok, which is worth watching just for the amazing final shot:



   Hopefully some of the other trailers will be released soon - the word is that the Black Panther movie looks amazing, and the Avengers: Infinity War trailer stole the show.

   What a great time to be a fan of movies and comic books!
 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Astonishing X-Men #1

   I should admit, I went into this issue not expecting much.

   We're so covered up in X-Men family comics that they all just kind of blend together into a generic mush - and I expected Astonishing X-Men to be more of the same.

   Happily, I was way off the mark.

   What we have here, under the guidance of writer Charles Soule and artist Jim Cheung (plus three inkers and two color artists) is an X-Men comic that - miracle of miracles - manages to be a classic X-Men comic.

   It starts with a mysterious menace that threatens every mutant telepath on the planet, including the powerful Psylocke.

   Stricken, she calls for help - and in response we get a terrific gathering of her former teammates, including Gambit, Rogue, the Angel, Bishop, and others not necessarily pictured on the cover.

   It's a great way to deal with the required "first issue gathering of the team," and it does so with a solid understanding of each character, how they interact and what makes them interesting.

   There's a lot at stake here, a major (classic) villain to oppose, and oh, that final page splash - which was the tipping point for me. I'll be back next issue.

   What a treat, to have a real X-Men book on the stands again. It's about dang time.

Grade: A

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

New "Inhumans" Trailer

   A new trailer for the upcoming Inhumans movie and TV series was unveiled today at the Comics Con - and they released it to the web, too!

   Here's the clip, which gives us a better look at the powers of the Royal Family - and some hints about the story:

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- ARCHIE #22 (Archie) - A stunner.

- CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #10 (DC) - A strange new world!

- DAREDEVIL #24
(Marvel) - Kingpin strikes back!

- DOCTOR STRANGE #23 (Marvel) - A Secret Empire tie-in.

- INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #9
(Marvel) - Riri's on her own!

- JUSTICE LEAGUE #25 (DC) - Reviving an ancient evil!

- SECRET EMPIRE #6 (OF 10) (Marvel) - The unworthy strike!

- MIGHTY THOR #21 (Marvel) - The Ultimate team-up!

- WILD STORM #6 (DC) - A war is brewing!

- ASTOUNDING X-MEN #1 (Marvel) - A new start!
                                                                                                                                                      
   And I received review copies of:

- ALL NEW FATHOM #6 (Aspen)

- BLOOD BOWL MORE GUTS MORE GLORY #2 (OF 4) (Titan) - Bone-crunching sports action!

- BRITANNIA WE WHO #4 (OF 4) (Valiant) - Death and the deity!

- BUBBLEGUN VOL 2 #3 (Aspen) - A new high-stake job!

- FOREVER WAR #6 (OF 6) (Titan) - The conclusion!

- MIRACULOUS ADVENTURES LADYBUG CAT NOIR #1 (Action Lab - Danger Zone) - The first story!

- NORMANDY GOLD #2 (Titan) - Diving into the world of prostitution.

- PENNY DREADFUL #4 (Titan)

- RAPTURE #3 (Valiant) - Beware the lords of Deadside!

- SECRET WEAPONS #2 (OF 4) (Valiant) - Fully charged!

- SPENCER AND LOCKE #4 (OF 4) (Action Lab - Danger Zone) - The finale!

- ZOMBIE TRAMP ONGOING #37 (Action Lab - Danger Zone) - The most shocking issue yet!

   And that's it!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Lola XOXO #1 (Vol. 2)

   Back again after a brief vacation is Lola, a woman trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic (post-nuclear attack) world.

   Placed in a Wild West-style setting, she uses her hunting skills to try to show her value while carving out a life - and tracking down her missing parents.

    But there are several forces working against her - one evil, and one REALLY evil (the kind who would happily kidnap a child).\\

   The comic is written and drawn by Siya Oum, and the issue is worth the price just for the art.

   It's hard to pinpoint Oum's unique style, but I see some elements of Nick Cardy in there - that same "real" quality, with characters who have life and emotion and beauty to spare.

   This issue is just setup, of course, for the rest of the story, as Lola finds herself in danger - and trying to save others at the same time.

   Well worth a look!

Grade: B+

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Introducing the New Doctor Who



   The BBC ended the mystery this week and announced the actor who will be the next Doctor Who.

   To the surprise of - well, very few people - the next Doctor will be played by a woman - and the first female to tackle the role is the terrific Jodie Whittaker.

   Of course, it was an opportunity for the usual trolls to vent their spleen, declaring this to be the end of the series - but that's just silly.

   Was there outrage when the Doctor's longtime enemy, The Master, regenerated as a woman? Not that I heard.

   And The Doctor solves problems with his or her mind and heart, and those aren't qualities that are exclusive to males.

   My only quibble is that I'm sorry to see Peter Capaldi's run end. It took a few episodes for me to warm up to him as The Doctor (he was quite a change from Matt Smith's lighthearted approach), but he's terrific in the part.

   I'm sad to see the media focus on the negative comments (though perhaps that was the idea - to generate buzz). But Doctor Who is a terrific concept and a positive force - here's hoping the new creative team, and our new Doctor, will take us to even bigger and better stories.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Groo: Play of the Gods #1 (of 4)

   It's amazing to realize that after all these issues of Groo, there are still issues of Groo being published - and they're still the best in the business.

   The comics feature the world's stupidest barbarian who also happens to be an incredibly deadly fighter who loves nothing better than facing overwhelming odds (presumably he's not good at math).

   This provides the action in every issue, and his insatiable appetite (especially for cheese dip, natch) and his total cluelessness (if that's a word) provide much of the comedy.

   Continuing a theme from the last mini-series, his far-reaching adventures are so incredibly stupefying that they're actually having an effect on the spiritual realm, as the gods (such as they are) have taken note of his activities.

   The earthly representatives of the gods also hope to use Groo - for their own less-than-noble purposes.

   Who but artist / creator Sergio Aragon├ęs could mine humor from the always-touchy topic of religion? Who but wordsmith Mark Evanier could wring the maximum laughs from each panel? (Really, I'm asking. Who?)

   Oh, and there are three full-page splash panels in the story that absolutely made my jaw drop - who but Aragon├ęs would even attempt a scene with a cast of hundreds - three times over? 

   So Groo continues to hold its crown as the funniest comic around. Don't miss it! (As we've learned, there's no such thing as too much Groo!)

Grade: A

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Wynonna Earp Season Zero #1

   Whenever a comic book is adapted into a film or TV show, the comic usually tries to adjust to fit more closely with the mass media version.

   Wynonna Earp is now well into its second season on the SyFy channel, and earning well-deserved rave reviews - it's a great blend of action, horror, humor and a terrific cast - and on the comics side, writer / creator Beau Smith has been nudging his series a bit to line it up with the TV show.

   It wasn't a long trip, mostly involving moving the setting for the series to Wynonna's hometown of Purgatory, and bringing in the TV supporting cast, including her sister Waverly, the immortal Doc Holliday, Officer Haught, Black Badge Agent Dolls, and the warrior woman Valdez (who isn't on the show but should be).

   Oh, and Wynonna is now a brunette (that was an easy fix).

   The current storyline takes advantage of the "limitless budget" in comics to give us - for the first time ever - a look at Wynonna's earliest days after leaving Purgatory, introducing the unique, tough-as-nails "family" she ran with.

   With lives in danger, Wynonna must work with her ongoing (and yes, somewhat dysfunctional) family to go to war.

   The story is by Smith and Tim Rozon, who plays Doc on the show, and it's a hard-hitting blast from Wynonna's past.

   The art is by Angel Hernandez, and it's terrific, combining sweeping vistas with smashmouth action and great character depictions.

   It's a strong story that will delight fans of both the TV show and the comic!

Grade: A

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Mage: The Hero Denied #0

   Not to be maudlin - but how wonderful to have lived long enough to see the beginning and (assuming I make it to the end of next year) the end of writer / artist Matt Wagner's excellent Mage story.

   It's a modern version of the Arthurian legend, told in three parts.

   It pits the powerful hero Kevin Matchstick against dark forces and assorted monsters as he works with an assortment of allies.

   This "Zero" issue seems to include an audition for a potential new ally, and Wagner has fun with his (shall we say) well-seasoned hero meeting a "modern" hero.

   Those of us who are challenged in the growing hair department can appreciate that Kevin shares that curse - one of the few such heroes in the history of comics.

   The art is terrific and the story is building to a big finish - I can't wait to see where it all goes!

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Defenders #3

   I shouldn't be surprised that I'm really enjoying The Defenders - but somehow I am.

   I assume it's because the series feels a bit forced, bringing together the stars of assorted Netflix shows as a team - which works fine on TV, but may be a stretch in the comics where their stories have taken different paths.

   It works because - well, the book is loaded with terrific characters. It pits Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones against a mysteriously powerful (and no longer dead) crime lord named Diamondback.

   But first, they have to fight the Punisher (and survive the encounter).

   The story by Brian Michael Bendis is fast and funny, and almost worth buying just for Luke Cage's comments.

   It's also packed with action, terrific art by David Marquez, and a heck of a cliffhanger.

   If I had to quibble about something, it's that lots of injuries are doled out - and everyone seems to recover with amazing speed.

   But that's minor - all standard business in an action / adventure story.

   And this is a very good one. What a happy surprise!

Grade: A

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- NEIL GAIMAN AMERICAN GODS SHADOWS #5 (Dark Horse) - The strange road trip continues!

- BUG THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #3 (OF 6) (DC) - Lifted by Atlas!

- DEFENDERS #3 (Marvel) - The Punisher strikes!

- FLASH #26 (DC) - Fear for the future!

- GROO: PLAY OF GODS #1 (Dark Horse) - The play's the thing.

- MAGE HERO DENIED #0 (Image) - Destiny calls!

- SECRET WARRIORS #4 (Marvel) - Secret Empire tie-in.

- WYNONNA EARP SEASON ZERO #1 (OF 5) (IDW) - Before the Black Badge!


   And these review copies also arrived:

- CALEXIT #1 (Black Mask) - California declares its independence.

- HARBINGER RENEGADE #5 (Valiant) - New story arc begins!

- IAN LIVINGSTONES FREEWAY FIGHTER #3 (OF 4) (Titan) - Keep fighting!

- LAST SONG #1 (Black Mask) - Saved by rock and roll!

- LOLA XOXO VOL 2 #1 (Aspen) - The hit series returns!

- RIVERS OF LONDON DETECTIVE STORIES #2 (OF 4) (Titan) - Four magical crimes!

- WARHAMMER 40000 REVELATIONS #4 (OF 4) (Titan) - The finale!

   And that's it!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bloodshot's Day Off #1

   Amist the usual bombastic goings-on in the life of the soldiers who have been through the Bloodshot process, it's nice to throw in an occasional "quiet" issue - and that's what you get with Bloodshot's Day Off.

   Turned into invincible killing machines by the government, two soldiers are - surprisingly - given leave for a day.

   One is a veteran of the Vietnam War, the other of World War II - and both take advantage of their time off to take a trip down memory lane.

   It's a touching story about the sacrifices soldiers make - and it has a powerful message to share.

   The well-crafted story is by Eliot Rahal, and the art by Khari Evans captures the emotional impact of the story.

   It's a nice change of pace with a relative minimum of death and destruction, but plenty of life-affirming moments.

Grade: B+

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming: Movie Review

   Let's say it right up front: I loved this movie!

   That's because Spider-Man: Homecoming gets it right.

   It gives us a Peter Parker - played perfectly by Tom Holland - who manages to be nerdy but sweet, young but not childish, and powerful but anxious to make his mark while learning his trade.

   The mistake most films (and the comic books) often make is that they present Peter as a loser. Done properly, he's a teen with typical problems. Can he work up the nerve to ask a pretty girl out on a date to the Homecoming dance? What are his career goals? How can he deal with school bullies?

   Add on top of that the challenges of being a super-hero: fighting the bad guys; keeping his identity secret; and protecting the people in his (friendly) neighborhood, all while figuring out his new powers.

   So Peter has a lot on his plate. Then he's recruited by Tony Stark (the masterful Robert Downey, Jr.) to help with the Civil War (which we see in flashback), and he's given a high-tech superhero suit in the bargain.

   The film also flashes back to the aftermath of the first Avengers movie, as a salvage crew led by Adrian Toomes (played with a perfect balance between menace and intensity by Michael Keaton) finds a more profitable use for the alien technology left behind. The comic book version of The Vulture never impressed me as being a real challenge for Spider-Man, but the film version certainly succeeds in ramping up the threat level.

   What follows is a terrific mix of action sequences, a dollop of love story, lots of humor and dozens of Easter eggs for long-time fans.

   Throughout the film, you care. You cheer for Peter as he fights overwhelming odds - and as he tries to navigate the challenges of high school. That's the perfect age for Spider-Man - as a brash young man, joyous in his amazing abilities, fighting to overcome the odds, big-hearted, heroic and very funny.

   The film includes a terrific supporting cast, including: Marisa Tomei as the hottest (and funniest) Aunt May ever; Jacob Batalon gets lots of laughs as Peter's best friend Ned; Jon Favreau is great as Tony's right-hand-man-and-Spidey-liaison Happy Hogan; Laura Harrier glows as the smart and lovely Liz; and Zendaya is a pure delight as the acerbic Michelle.

   I suppose if you worked hard at it, you could find something to pick at - but the missteps are very minor. It's loaded with surprises, great action sequences and lots of plot points for future films.

   When I saw it, the packed house laughed and cheered and ooh-ed throughout. They loved it, too!

   In a year loaded with great super-hero movies, Spider-Man has managed to nail down the best one of the year - so far!

Grade: A

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Shaolin Cowboy - Shemp Buffet

   I'm late to the party with Shaolin Cowboy, which is surprising, since I'm a big fan of artist Geoff Darrow, whose unique style is consistently stunning.

   This recently-released collection is titled Shemp Buffet, and it almost defies description.

  Simply put, it drops the title character (who gets through the book with almost no dialogue at all) in the middle of a desert, being pursued by an army of zombies.

  At first he does the smart thing - he runs away. But when others are threatened, he turns and fights with his (shall we say) unique weapon: a long pole with chain saws on either end.

   What follows is, perversely, a pure delight, as Darrow lovingly depicts page after page after page after page (etc) of battle, all presented with amazing detail, down to the pebbles on the ground and the drops of blood that fly through the air.

   I'm not much of a horror fan, but this book presents frightening images as works of art, adding in a bit of humor and heroic efforts.

   It's not like anything I've ever seen before, and I  loved it.

   I can't recommend it highly enough.

Grade: A+

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Skybourne #4 (of 5)

   File this one under "Oh yeah, I almost forgot about this series."

   It's been several months since the last issue of Frank Cho's enjoyable Skybourne series, but delays and Cho go hand-in-hand.

   But it's a series worth the wait, both for the powerful artwork and the fun concept that give Cho lots of room to have fun with the visuals.

   So we have the (apparently evil) wizard Merlin leading a small army of giant dragons to attack a hidden base that serves as a prison of sorts (or is it a zoo?) for a vast menagerie of mystical creatures, most of them deadly and hostile.

   The main defender of the base is Thomas Skybourne, a son of Lazarus (yes, that Lazarus), blessed with immortality, invulnerability and great strength.

   But will that be enough against the invaders? There's the fun bit.

   The issue is loaded with action and lots of humor - though the material is on the adult side, so this isn't really for young readers.

   The series plays to Cho's strengths - fantastic art, amazing creatures, beautiful women, lots of humor - but it does require some patience while the deadlines play out.

   Still, highly recommended!

Grade: A-

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Champions #10

   As mentioned in this week's Avengers review, it's a trick to work around a big Event series (such as Secret Empire) - and writer Mark Waid shows how it's done.

   Since the Champions are heavily involved in the event, working outside it is a trick - so Waid uses this issue to check in on the team's members, two of whom are off doing other things (Cyclops is with the X-Men, and Nova is trapped in space on the other side of a planet-wide force field) - so that leaves the team the task of tracking down Ms. Marvel.

   That involves tracking down a secret concentration camp and facing some difficult choices. The story features a few surprises and some tough challenges that force the heroes to make some smart decisions.

   I love it when the heroes are smart.

   The art by Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba is terrific as always, with striking layouts and great character depictions.

   It's a clever series and it focuses on the positive energy of the younger generation of heroes. I like it!

Grade: A-

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Avengers #9

   One of the problems with big events is that they tend to disrupt the stories in ongoing titles, which must screech to a halt to deal with the effects of the event.

   But there are writers who can work around that limitation - and Mark Waid demonstrates how to do that in this little gem of an issue.

   Since The Avengers are tied up dealing with the Secret Empire, the focus is on The Mighty Thor, who has somehow been banished to an alien dimension.

   She must adjust to this strange new reality and find a way back to Earth - all without her enchanted hammer.

   It's a story loaded with humor and heart - and a few surprises.

   It's also perfectly suited to the artwork of Mike Del Mundo, with its bright colors, alien creatures and exotic landscapes.

   It's a surprisingly touching story, and a welcome relief from the usual event angst.

Grade: A

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- AVENGERS #9 - Secret Empire tie-in.

- BANE CONQUEST #3 (OF 12) - Squaring off against the Bat! 

- CHAMPIONS #10 - More Secret Empire stuff. 

- DAREDEVIL #23 - Meeting the Hulk!

- GREEN HORNET 66 MEETS SPIRIT #1 (OF 5) - The blue and the green!

- HAWKEYE #8 - A face from the past! 

- IRON FIST #5 - Concluding the trial of the 7 Masters!

- JESSICA JONES #10 - The mystery of Maria Hill!

- JUSTICE LEAGUE #24 - What’s happened to Aquaman? 

- NICK FURY #4 - The deep blue sea!

- SKYBOURNE #4 - When dragons attack!

- VISITOR HOW AND WHY HE STAYED #5 (OF 5) - The finale!

- UNSTOPPABLE WASP #7 - The future hangs in the balance!


   And I received these review copies: 

- ASSASSINS CREED REFLECTIONS #4 (OF 4) - The finale! 

- ASSASSINS CREED UPRISING #5 - A new story arc begins! 

- BLOODSHOT’S DAY OFF #1 -  A killing machine takes a break!

- DOCTOR WHO 12TH YEAR THREE #5 -  With new companion Bill!

- DOCTOR WHO GHOST STORIES #4 (OF 4) - A secret is revealed! 

- DOLLFACE #6 - Fun in the sun!  

- KIM AND KIM LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD #1 - A bounty gone bad! 

- LOST FLEET CORSAIR #2 (OF 4) - The SF adaptation continues!

- NO WORLD #3 - An uneasy alliance!  

- STAINED #3 (OF 5) - A human trafficking ring! 

- THERES NOTHING THERE #3 - Being close to a human target is a bad idea. 

- ZOMBIE TRAMP ORIGINS #1 - The origin story in full color!


   And that’s it! (Whew! So much to read!)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Secret Weapons #1

   One of the things I always enjoyed about the classic Legion of Super-heroes lineup was that it combined several heroes whose powers were - well, not exactly impressive.

   That concept is back in Valiant's Secret Weapons.

   It brings together a small group of psiots who were "developed" by the evil Harada - and mostly rejected from consideration as a weapon.

   That's because their powers are a bit... odd.

   But that doesn't save them from a deadly menace - an evil plot that involves gathering psiots and stealing both their powers and their lives.

   So the individuals involved are going to have to team up fast - and even then, can they survive a relentless, murderous monster?

   Luckily for them, even though they don't know it - they have a secret weapon.

   So it's an interesting start to the new series - I'm curious to see where it goes from here.

Grade: A-

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Beautiful Canvas #1

   I like comic books that actually manage to surprise me (Saga being a good example thereof).

   You can add Black Mask's Beautiful Canvas to that list.

   It follows a woman named Lon who has an unusual career - she kills people.

   She's hired for a job that appears to be just another hit - but in this series, things are rarely what they seem.

   In fact, reality itself seems to be suspect.

   When the hit takes an unexpected turn, Lon makes a surprising choice - one that may put her in danger from a very powerful foe.

   The issue is written by Ryan K. Lindsay and drawn by Sami Kivela, and both turn in excellent work. The script is smart and always one step ahead of us, and the art shows great design skill, with strong characters and vivid environments on display.

   This is not a comic for young readers - there's lots of death and assorted horrific images - but for mature readers, it's a compelling puzzle to sort out - and impossible to predict.

   Recommended!

Grade: A-

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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Astro City #45

   Comic book characters are always changing.

   It's not always apparent. By their nature, comics are all about the illusion of change - but it's important to maintain the status quo.

   But things are always changing in the world of pop culture, and comics change with them. Even Superman has gone through changes - from his first plain "acrobat tights" costume to his classic long johns to jeans and a T-shirt and the most recent high-tech version (we won't talk about his mullet stylings).

   But because the changes happen over a period of years, it's not always evident.

   By compressing that time period, Astro City has crafted a unique series of characters based on the popular music trends, and is tying their stories together in a series of adventures that paints a musical panorama of its own.

   It's a clever story - and with this issue we finally get a glimpse of the great threat that is tied to the phenomenon, and may threaten all of creation.

   As always, Kurt Busiek crafts a terrific, clever (and often funny) story, and Brent E. Anderson turns in his usual incredible art, with amazing character designs and vivid environments.

    This is a story arc that any comics fan will enjoy - but music fans will love it!

Grade: A-

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Defenders #2

   While I still struggle a smudge with the name of this team (I fondly remember the original gang), The Defenders is a darned good comic.

   Set at the ground level of the Marvel universe, it teams up Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones as they face the challenge of a new kingpin of crime in New York - a surprisingly powerful and deadly old foe of Luke's named Diamondback.

   Formerly a run-of-the-mill villain, Diamondback is more lethal than ever - and his confrontation with Luke Cage leaves that hero at death's door.

   As you'd expect from writer Brian Michael Bendis, the dialogue is fast, funny and very real - and the reactions of each character are likewise.

   The art by David Marquez is excellent, with striking layouts and powerful character designs.

   Throw in some clever plot twists and several guest appearances, and you have a series that doesn't slow down for a moment.

   More like this, please, and I can forgive the lack of Dr. Strange, Namor and the Hulk!

Grade: A-

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