Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Defenders - TV Review


   I've watched the first two episodes of the new Netflix series Marvel's The Defenders, and so far it's a terrific achievement. 

   I think Marvel's brain trust has been brilliant, using the same concept they used with The Avengers - to introduce each hero individually in separate series, and team them up in this series.

   The series brings together the heroes from the four existing Marvel / Netflix series - Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist - to tackle a menace too big for any single hero.

   Each character gets (more or less) equal treatment, and they're an interesting mix of earnest and powerful (Iron Fist, played by Finn Jones), troubled but dedicated (Daredevil, played by Charlie Cox), a streetwise hero trying to make a difference (Luke Cage, played by Mike Colter), and a troubled spitfire whose heart is in the right place whether she wants to admit it or not (Jessica Jones, played by Krysten Ritter).

   There's a nice mystery building behind the villain (wonderfully played by Sigourney Weaver), a big menace to New York (and points beyond) and yes, the first time two of the heroes meet, they fight. (It's a beloved tradition with Marvel.)

   The action scenes are well staged and entertaining, the photography and special effects are excellent, and the music is perfect (it changes depending on which character is in the spotlight).

   The series is building nicely on the individual series and includes most of the excellent supporting cast from each one, and the interaction between the heroes is a lot of fun (although to be fair, that's just starting to kick in with episode two).

   It's not necessary to have seen the previous series to enjoy this one, but it isn't really for young kids - it gets intense and there's some adult language (mostly from Jessica).

   The series shows the strength of "team stories." A single character can be almost silly, using superpowers (or wearing a costume) in the real world. But bring several together and it gives the story more gravitas - and each character can show their strengths, bouncing off each other.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Future Quest Presents Space Ghost #1

   It's great to see Space Ghost back in action in this follow-up to the excellent Future Quest series.

   This time around, writer Jeff Parker gives us a look behind the curtain at the origins of Space Ghost and the Space Patrol, including the reasons why he teams up with Jan and Jayce (still no explanation for Blip) and the source of his powers.

   The issue also features the Herculoids (another fave) with some history behind that team / family, and why their pets / allies have such varied powers.

   One thing this series has enjoyed is some terrific art - no doubt many artists are also fans and are eager to work on these classic characters.

   This issue features Ariel Olivetti's painted artwork, and it's a real delight, breathing flesh and blood into these two-dimensional creations.

   The series is managing a nice balance between nostalgia and crafting a story that stands on its own and lays the groundwork for future adventures.

   Recommended!

Grade: A

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dark Nights: Metal #1

   I was planning to skip this event, for two reasons: it looks very dark, which gets a big "eh" out of me; and I'm definitely feeling event fatigue.

   But then I saw the spoilers about a certain character showing up, one who hasn't been seen in quite a few years - and I caved. (Since we don't do spoilers on this site, I won't be naming that character for you - but the rest of the Internet is happy to fill that need.)

   So I can tell you that Dark Nights: Metal lives up to my expectations - and exceeds them in some ways.

   Yes, it's certainly dark, as Batman continues to explore an ancient mystery around the threat of a Dark Universe and the Metal that is somehow connected to it and the superpowers in the world.

   On the plus side, the story references (or includes) quite a number of characters who've been largely ignored for some time now, including Hawkman, the Blackhawks and the Challengers of the Unknown (though they only play small parts so far).

   The story also offers some new insights into the DC Universe, with threads about immortals, Hawkman's Ninth Metal and competing tribes dating back to the dawn of mankind.

   But it's also a bit muddy, as we get flashes of story without a clear idea as to where it's all going. What did the opening adventure with the Justice League have to do with the rest of it? Since when do the Blackhawks involve themselves with mysticism? What's up with the mysterious new landmark in Gotham?

   We trust, of course, that we'll get answers in the issues to come, but the series isn't giving us much to go on - I have to think that new readers would struggle to make sense of this.

Grade: B+

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

New Comics Day!

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

- NEIL GAIMAN AMERICAN GODS SHADOWS #6 (Dark Horse) - Rally the gods!

- ASTRO CITY #46 (DC) - The musical finale!

- BATMAN: METAL #1 (DC) - I was going to pass on this, then heard about the special guest star.

- CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #11 (DC) - Who can stop The Whisperer?

- FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #1 (DC) - Space Ghost and the Herculoids!

- INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #10 (Marvel) - Riri versus fake Tony!

- JUSTICE LEAGUE #27 (DC) - The children of the JL!

- MAGE HERO DENIED #1 (OF 15) - The hero returns!

- SANDMAN SPECIAL #1 (DC) - Return of Kirby's dreamer!

- SILVER SURFER #13 (Marvel) - Once upon a time...

- MIGHTY THOR #22 (Marvel) - Everything burns!


   And I received these review copies:

- AMERIKARATE #5 (Action Lab Danger Zone) - Martial arts action!

- BLOOD BOWL MORE GUTS MORE GLORY #3 (OF 4) (Titan) - The title says it all!

- DIVINITY #0 (Valiant) - A god on Earth!

- DOCTOR WHO 10TH YEAR THREE #8 (Titan) - Gabby has strange new powers!

- DOCTOR WHO 11TH YEAR THREE #8 (Titan)

- HERCULES WRATH OF THE HEAVENS #1 (Titan) - The legend returns in a futuristic setting!

- INFINITE SEVEN #6 (Action Lab Danger Zone) A night on the town!

- LOLA XOXO VOL 2 #2 (Aspen) - Most post-apocalyptic adventures!

- NORMANDY GOLD #3 (Titan) - Can Normandy survive this investigation?

- SECRET WEAPONS #3 (OF 4) (Valiant) - Can the team work together?

- WARHAMMER 40000 DAWN OF WAR III #2 (OF 4) (Titan)

   And that's it!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Classics - Brave and the Bold #49

   One of the joys in thumbing through a box of old comics is finding a true oddity - and that's what I stumbled onto during a recent trip to a local comics shop.

   When I came across this issue of The Brave and the Bold, I immediately fell in love.

   The cover, depicting a gorilla dressed in a baseball uniform and sliding into third base, just beating the throw, put an immediate smile on my face.

   Of course, this is one of the Strange Sports Stories issues. That short-lived series was the brainstorm of editor Julius Schwartz, who enjoyed tossing in occasional sports references (which is why the Justice Society became the Justice League - he figured kids could relate because of football and baseball leagues).

   The issue is drawn by the great Carmine Infantino (did anyone draw a better gorilla?), and features two sports / science fiction tales.

   The first features an experiment in Africa that creates intelligent gorillas, a group that suddenly takes an interest in baseball. And their team is unbeatable, thanks to their superior strength. But what is the dark secret behind their love of baseball?

   The second story is set far in the future, and involves a group of athletes using their unique skills in the game Spaceball to stop an alien invasion (no relation to the Mel Brooks movie).

   It's an entertaining issue with some fun twists, amazing art and, best of all, a gorilla on the cover! Who could pass it up?

   Not me!

Grade: B+

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Anno Dracula #5 (of 5)

   While I'm not a huge fan of vampire stories, there are certainly exceptions, like Marvel's Tomb of Dracula - and now you can add Anno Dracula to the list.

   Based on the novel by Kim Newman, it's an alternate history where Dracula has taken control of Great Britain, and various forces - supernatural and otherwise - plot his destruction.

   The series has a dark, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vibe to it, and readers can have fun identifying classic fictional characters who take part in this story, along with quite a few original creations.

    With terrific art by Paul McCaffrey and Bambos Georgiou and a haunting, horror-tinged story, loaded with unexpected twists, this is a powerful series.

   Highly recommended - even if you're not crazy about vampires!

Grade: A-

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Defenders - TV Trailer

   NetFlix has released the final trailer for the upcoming series Marvel's The Defenders - and I have to say, it looks like a lot of fun. (Warning, this trailer includes a naughty word.)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Green Hornet '66 Meets The Spirit #2

   I generally enjoy these little nuggets of nostalgia - the crossovers between different icons from the past.

   The Green Hornet was a classic TV show that tried to bottle the success of the Batman TV show, and while it wasn't a huge hit, it was certainly entertaining (I was a fan), and it's famous for the fact that martial arts icon Bruce Lee starred as GH's assistant Kato.

   Here the duo team up with The Spirit - which is a bit of a twist, since he only appeared in the comics, and by the '60s he wasn't being published anymore.

   This issue makes a reasonable attempt at mimicking the style of the Spirit stories, as it tells the story of an unusual, delusional man. His story plays out alongside the action / adventure part of the program.

   My biggest complaint here is that, like another recent Spirit mini-series, it only features that hero in flashbacks - he doesn't actually appear in the here and now.

   Oh, there's a version of him running around here, and there's a good twist there - but I'd rather see more actual Spirit content in my Spirit mini-series.

Grade: B

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Friday, August 11, 2017

The Defenders #4

   Writer Brian Michael Bendis specializes in taking the unexpected route in telling a story, but this issue of The Defenders has a few twists that may leave you scratching your head.

   That's not a bad thing, of course.

   The story features a mysteriously-alive and strangely-powerful villain named  Diamondback, who's planning to take control of the drug trade in New York City - but standing in his way is the "new" Defenders: Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones.

    Diamondback's amped up power is evident because he manages to defeat Luke Cage in a fight. This time around, Iron Fist and Jessica are out for revenge - and one of them will suffer a terrible injury. Or will they?

   (Longtime readers - like me - may not be as mystified about that hero's recovery.)

   The story seems to come to an abrupt end - perhaps they want to have a new story starting as the new Netflix series premieres?

   Whatever the case, this has been a strong start to the series, with great characters, compelling stories and terrific art by David Marquez.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A-

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Mister Miracle #1

   Let me just say, I hope DC never decides to honor my memory. (Not that there's much chance of that.)

   This is the second of the tributes to Jack Kirby that I've read in the last two weeks, and I suspect they would both have Jack scratching his head.

   I talked abut the New Gods Special here, and this week Mister Miracle gets his turn in a new 12-issue series.

    One of my favorites of Kirby's original New Gods series, this comic follows the young god named Scott Free, born to New Genesis but raised in the pits of Apokolips - but he managed to escape and made his way to Earth, where he established himself as the ultimate escape artist.

   But instead of high-flying adventures, this series by writer Tom King and artist Mitch Gerads takes us on a surreal trip into dark places, where reality is suspect and heroes seem to be non-existent.

   The story is all mystery at this point, so there's time to redeem its dark beginnings - but the opening sequence is very disturbing, and it's a scene I don't think you'd ever have seen in a comic by Jack Kirby.

   It seems like a disrespectful way to honor "the King."

Grade: C+

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- CAPTAIN AMERICA #25 - Secret Empire tie-in, natch!

- DEFENDERS #4 - Standing up to chaos!

- FLASH #28 - Who is the Negative Flash?

- GROO: PLAY OF GODS #2 - Groo and boats - not a good combination (for the boat).

- MISTER MIRACLE #1 (OF 12) - A new take on the master of escape!

- NEWSBOY LEGION & BOY COMMANDOS SPECIAL #1 - Chaykin art and story? Sign me up.

- SECRET EMPIRE #8 (OF 10) - Standing against the Empire.

- SECRET WARRIORS #5 - More of the Secret Empire.

- TRUE BELIEVERS KIRBY 100TH GROOT #1 - Kirby smash!

- WYNONNA EARP SEASON ZERO #2 (OF 5) - Old friends and old foes!


   And I picked up review copies of:

- ANNO DRACULA #5 (OF 5) - The conclusion!

- DANGER DOLL SQUAD #0 - A deadly team-up!

- DOCTOR WHO 9TH #15
- HARBINGER RENEGADE #6 - A dangerous new foe appears!

- IAN LIVINGSTONES FREEWAY FIGHTER #4 (OF 4) - The finish line!

- LOST FLEET CORSAIR #3 (OF 4) - Adapting the acclaimed novel!

- QUAKE CHAMPIONS #1 (OF 4) - Tie-in to the classic game!

- RIVERS OF LONDON DETECTIVE STORIES #3 (OF 4) - Solving magical crimes!

- SHERLOCK THE GREAT GAME #1 (OF 6) - Adapting the TV series.

- TANK GIRL WORLD WAR TANK GIRL #4 (OF 4) - The explosive finish!

- TOYETICA #1 - Living toys?

And that's it!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Robotech #1

   I admit that I don't know much about Robotech, so I can't testify as to how faithful this new series is to the original.

   But I do like what I see here!

   The story revolves around a dramatic crash landing on Earth of a huge alien vehicle, which is studied for a decade as its secrets are unlocked and weapons are adapted.

   Just as the team of experts is about to test it for the first time, an swarm of alien invaders appear, and Earth's defenders have a very short time to get up to speed as they confront the strange invaders.

   It's a fast and furious tale by writer Brian Wood, with terrific, expressive artwork by Marco Turini.

   It's a bit of a rush, sorting out the characters involved, but the story's off to a quick start, and promises lots of high-tech action (and maybe even a smudge of romance.

   So far, so good!

Grade: A-

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Unstoppable Wasp #8

   I'm sorry to see that this is the final issue for The Unstoppable Wasp, because this series has been an unexpected delight.

   It's been downright inspirational - a series that anyone can enjoy, but it's especially effective for young women.

   It focused on the efforts by young Nadia - the daughter or Hank (Giant-Man) Pym and his first wife, Maria - who is the new Wasp in town. She arrives in America, hoping to join her father in making the world a better place.

   The problem is, Hank is "dead" (wink wink), so she instead tries to form her own group of young female scientists to make the world a better place.

   That group - G.I.R.L. - manages to avert a crisis, but the danger leads their parents to ban them from taking part. But Nadia has a guardian angel (with real wings) - the "real" Wasp, Janet Van Dyne, who plunges into Nadia's numerous problems and shows why she's one of Marvel's greatest (and most woefully underused) heroines!

   What follows is so full of positive energy, intelligence and a great spirit of fun that you'll get through this issue before you realize that not a single punch was thrown.

   But any comic that inspires readers (young and not-so-young) to make the world a better place is aces in my book!

   I hope Marvel gives this series (and its creative team - writer Jeremy Whitley and artists Ro Strein and Ted Brandt) another run!

Grade: A-

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Bane Conquest #4 (of 12)

   If you haven't been reading Bane Conquest, you're missing out on an action-packed treat.

   The series focuses on Batman's powerful enemy, who shows why he's more that just a muscle-bound thug.

   The series allows him to showcase his formidable intelligence as he takes over one criminal enterprise and puts its misshapen mastermind to work.

   That leads to an attempt to crush another powerful criminal enterprise - but there's a wild card in the mix, as Catwoman pops up to turn up the heat (in more ways than one).

   But don't think it's all sturm and drang - there's lots of humor along the way, and twists and turns galore!

   As always, writer Chuck Dixon and artist Graham Nolan craft an expert adventure that just gets bigger and better with each chapter!

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Iron Fist #6

   I've always enjoyed Iron Fist's adventures, but to be honest, he's my second-favorite martial artist, trailing Marvel's first entry in that category - Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu.

   So I was happy to see this issue's guest star (although he's barely recognizable on the cover).

   The issue finds Iron Fist under attack by a small army of hooded mystery men - and trying to survive a plane crash.

   Just as he's about to be overwhelmed, an old friend shows up and together they tackle the mystery figure behind the attack.

   The story is a basic fight from start to finish, with a good twist at the end.

   My biggest complaint is that the fighting sequences don't really show off the fighting prowess of either hero. Part of the joy of martial arts combat is the poetry of the fighting, the precision of the moves (offense and defense) and the skill of the fighter.

   We don't really get that here - it's just a slugfest, which is, frankly, disappointing.

Grade: B-

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

New Gods Special #1

   It's wonderful to see the comics companies rolling out a lot of love and respect for Jack Kirby, the King of Comics, who helped create many of Marvel's greatest comics in the '60s, and then he moved over to DC and crafted characters and concepts that continue to shape that universe, too.

   This month marks his 100th birthday, so there are quite a few comics out honoring his legacy - like this one, the New Gods Special.

   It includes two new stories - both feature Orion, the powerful son of Darkseid who fights against his father and for New Genesis, and a six-page reprint of a story by the King.

    The second story by writer / artist Walt Simonson is a little gem, loaded with big monsters and some brief insights on Orion and the New God named Seagrin.

   The opening story by writer / artist Shane Davis and inker Michelle Delecki pits Orion against his monstrous brother Kalibak and features Lightray and Bug. It feels like a standard New Gods adventure until the final battle, which takes a surprisingly graphic and unsettling turn, with broken bones and blood flying.

   For a story intended to honor Kirby, that's not something Kirby would have done. His stories were loaded with action, adventure and powerful fights - but never (to my memory) ventured into the realm of graphic violence.

   I would have enjoyed this issue a lot more if it had done likewise.

Grade: B-

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- AVENGERS #10 - Secret Empire tie-in!

- BANE CONQUEST #4 (OF 12) - It's Catwoman!

- CHAMPIONS #11 - More Secret Empire shenanigans!

- HAWKEYE #9 - Too close for comfort.

- IRON FIST #6 - Enter Shang-Chi!

- JESSICA JONES #11 - Maria Hill's secrets revealed!

- JUSTICE LEAGUE #26 - Meet the parents!

- NEW GODS SPECIAL #1 - Don't ask! Just buy it!

- NICK FURY #5 - No rest for the wicked!

- UNSTOPPABLE WASP #8 - Saving the world!


   And I received review copies of:

- ASSASSINS CREED UPRISING #6
- INFINITE SEVEN #5 - A new beginning!
- ROBOTECH #1 - This time for sure!

- ZOMBIE TRAMP ORIGINS #2 - The remastered original story continues!


   And that's it!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Kid Sherlock #2

   It's always a treat to find a comic that's made for young readers - they're all too rare these days.

   And Kid Sherlock fills the bill. Set at Baker Elementary School in modern times, it centers on the mysteries that arise - ones only Young Sherlock seems willing or able to solve.

   His "Watson" is an intelligent dog (who is also, somehow, a student at the school). John is loyal to Sherlock, although the young detective doesn't always deserve his loyalty.

    The case this time around involves show and tell - and a missing doll, with all the clues pointing toward a surprising suspect!

   The art by Sean Miller is bright and fun, and the story by Justin Phillips hops along to its touching ending.

  Add in some activity pages in the back of the issue (I love mazes!) and you have a great comic for young readers.

Grade: B+

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