Friday, May 30, 2014

Fables v18: Cubs in Toyland TPB

This is another strong, consistent series that I don’t think gets the attention it deserves. Just because Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham have been doing it for so long, it is easy to forget how riveting this title can be. I’m guilty of it myself. I let a few trades stack up and didn’t get around to them for a long time. I took the book for granted. Thank goodness this trade is so strong that it reminds me of what I’m missing.

The majority of the trade tells the story of Therese, one of Bigby Wolf and Snow White’s cubs. She seems like a normal kid, except that her toy boat has started talking to her in the middle of the night. Eventually, the boat whisks her away to the titular Toyland, where things are a lot direr than they seem. It’s pretty easy to get a Blaine the Mono vibe from the boat specifically, and Toyland generally. This is a place where discarded, forgotten toys pine away for a queen to save them. Therese is just the latest in a line of possible royalty.

After her disappearance, Darien (another cub) and the tiger Mountbatten stage a rescue, ably assisted by some of Darien’s favorite toys. Things just get darker and darker as Therese’s justifiable hunger keeps her from recognizing those who are trying to help. I felt so bad for most of the cast that even after I closed the book, I found myself thinking about the characters in the story and the trials they faced. Willingham has always been a master at this sort of thing; the warping of the childlike fables into something horrifying and fascinating. This is a great example of the heights this book can reach.

There is a two-parter at the end showing Bigby Wolf discovering his fate through the hand of fate, but I wasn’t as enthralled as I was in the first story. It’s a good thing; the first arc is so depressing it would be hard to move forward without a palate cleanser. There are also plenty of one-page tosses to keep the greater Fabletown story moving forward.

Mark Buckingham’s broken toys are fascinating. Their damage makes them horrific, but you can still see how they were meant to be cute at one time. It’s a perfect manifestation of the characters. Even the broken toys aren’t quite as irredeemable as it seems. Gene Ha’s art is gorgeous, as always, in the backup. I would have liked to have seen him draw more of the main cast, though.

Clearly, this is still an EXCELLENT read, and lapsed readers need to take note and get back on board. I know I certainly am.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Transformers: Regeneration One TPB

What a weird comic. It took me quite some time to work up the nerve to buy this trade, mostly because I was so lost after reading the free comic book day issue a few years ago. 
Listen, I’m clearly a Transformers fan, and I read the 80’s series all the way through the last issue. I’ve actually read a bunch of the Transformers UK material. And yet I had absolutely no idea what was happening when this book started.


Let me break it down for you. Transformers Regeneration One takes place 20 years after the end of the 80’s Marvel title. Optimus Prime and his Autobots won the war. Prime is mentoring Hot Rod as a future leader. Many of the Autobots seem to have faded into the background of the story, leaving the focus on the Wreckers, the Autobots’ special strike team. Springer, Kup, Topspin, Broadside, RacknRuin, Whirl, and Roadbuster make up most of the team. Grimlock is trapped in robot form after ingesting a substance called Nucleon that has affected Inferno, Blaster, Huffer, and the other Dinobots. Maybe more! I can confirm a few other survivors like Smokescreen, Red Alert, Wheeljack, Trailbreaker, Cosmos, and Tracks.

On the Decepticon side, Soundwave now leads the Cybertron based villains. I must confess I didn’t recognize most of them, other than the 2nd generation Insecticons. Most of the baddies I do recognize are basically zombies working for Megatron on a post-apocalyptic Earth.

Fortunately, reading these issues in order and all together kept things a lot clearer. Simon Furman does a nice job focusing on his new starring cast. While there are fewer “classic” Decepticons getting panel time in favor of guys like Bludgeon, the conflict is clear and satisfying when the metal fists start flying.

Andrew Wildman’s art is as enchanting to me now as it was when I was a kid. We are blessed with a plethora of talented Transformers artists these days, but Wildman’s art has nostalgia going for it in addition to everything else. Megatron in particular looks like he walked out of a book 20 years ago. I do lament the lack of backgrounds, but I suppose on a post-apocalyptic Earth and a monochrome robot planet, backgrounds are gonna be sparse.

This isn’t quite as excellent as IDW’s modern TF books, but it is still a GOOD comic for fans of the Transformers. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: A Cold Day in Hell TPB

So clearly this is one of my favorite comics, but I’m worried that after so many years of consistent high quality, that people are forgetting about the Hellboy universe that Mike Mignola has created. This is a changing, almost real-time world where there are consequences in each and every story. The world is physically changed (usually not for the better) as the result of the BPRD’s adventures over the past few years.

Now, with huge monsters releasing spores into the atmosphere that turn humans into monsters, with horrifying demons crawling up out of the earth at random, and with the “normal” villainy of the Hellboy universe, things are very dire for humanity. But instead of letting the reader become overwhelmed by the post-apocalyptic world that is the status quo; Mike Mignola and John Arcudi spend this trade focusing on smaller stories. Focused narrative beats that keeps the horror from becoming hopeless, because even a few men with guns can still do some good.

The first story in the collection is A Cold Day in Hell. It follows Johann and a small team of BPRD agents as they try to track down what happened to a previous team sent in to stop a cult in Chicago. Complicating factors include the aforementioned monster spores and tunneling demons. When the team’s chopper goes down outside Chicago, the BPRD folks have to hoof it in on their own, meeting up with a few stragglers of the apocalypse along the way.

Again, society has collapsed. There is almost no one left alive for the agents to encounter. Yet they persevere and maintain their humanity as they complete their mission. With one possible exception. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be as suspicious of Johann as I am… the ghost man has no face, after all, but he just seems… off. There is one important scene where I’m not sure if Johann isn’t allowing someone to die so that he can complete his mission. The other agents are all well realized and it is easy to root and grieve for them, even after only a few pages of exposure.

The second story focuses on newer lead characters. The Russian Occult Sciences Division has an important mission to complete, with the help of a few stranded BPRD agents. It’s an excellent glimpse into the history of the Hellboy world, but it also shows one of my favorite aspects of the line. While accomplishing his mission, the Russian director has teams out saving civilians. Unlike Superman in Man of Steel, Director Nichayko remembers that if everyone is dead, winning doesn’t matter.

Dark Horse continues to maximize its artists too. Laurence Campbell knocks it out of the park in the Chicago sequence. His agents look memorable and recognizable, and dang if I’m not looking forward to seeing Agent Howard do a lot more. It still pays to have super-heroic agents on the team after all. Peter Snejbjerg is an old hand at this stuff, so his chapters look fantastic too. I particularly enjoyed how well detailed the Russian town felt as the team accomplished their missions.

This is an EXCELLENT comic. Don’t forget about it just because it has been coming out for years.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Before Watchmen: Rorschach

The final Before Watchmen Wednesday!

We wrap up our Before Watchmen coverage with a look at Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s take on the gritty, street-level Rorschach. I’ll say this; you certainly have to say that the creators managed to maintain the character tone from the original series.

In one of the better prequels in the series, this limited series has a beginning through an end, a complete narrative, something many of these Before Watchmen comics have lacked. And it covered new ground, too. The story isn’t exactly revolutionary, but this series gives us a solid look at the types of cases that Rorschach dealt with before the events of Watchmen. So basically, this book is exactly what all the BW books should have been.

I consider it high praise to say that I got a real Punisher vibe from this book. Much like Circle of Blood or Return to Big Nothing, this felt like a big, violent chapter in the vigilante career of the NYC-based Rorschach. The villains have enough character to be despicable, and Bermejo does a great job giving them unique looks so that we can recognize and cheer as each one gets taken out by the protagonist.

The story does introduce a bit of supporting cast at the Gunga Diner, and there is a subplot about a serial killer, but the main plot and driving action is Rorschach’s obsession with a certain group of pimps and drug dealers. It is clear where his focus lies.

Lee Bermejo’s artwork is stunning. I can’t overstate the gritty, grimy feel of New York City, and of the cast of characters involved. Everyone has stains, rumples, and imperfections that add both realism and sadness to the proceedings. Bermejo’s work with the ever-changing Rorschach mask is an inspiration, especially when the mask ends up on someone else. There is almost a sheer quality to the mask, something I would have though impossible to express on the drawn page. Bermejo’s fully realized cast and setting make this series possibly the most faithful to the spirit of the original Watchmen. This is the gateway comic you’d give a fan of the movie who wanted more.

Is this story at all essential to the Watchmen reading experience? No, but it reads like a few chapters of a GOOD ongoing Rorschach series that never was. That’s a perfectly acceptable approach for this type of prequel. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero vol 9 TPB

I feel like these reviews sort of write themselves. Anyone who has read the blog before knows I love Larry Hama, I love G.I. Joe: Real American Hero. Nothing new to see here.

So instead of going into the many reasons I love this book (like the pitch perfect nostalgia, exciting modernized art, or long-form, continuing story), I will recap some of the high points in this trade.

Lots and lots of Joes get a few moments to shine in this collection. With pretty much the entire Joe team captured at the end of last issue, it is great seeing Hama put a rescue team together. Made up of the dregs of the team left behind at the Pit, pickings are mighty slim when it is time to send help to Sierra Gordo. 
The Relief Team call-signs are as follows: Clutch, Cross Country, Lightfoot, Alpine, Spirit, Charbroil, Ace, Wildcard, and Hit & Run. It says something about the strength of characterization Hama has accomplished that the team is a mix of pet characters that have had moments to shine (like Ace, Spirit, and Clutch) along with near ciphers like Alpine, Lightfoot, Charbroil, and Hit & Run. It’s always fun seeing the vehicle drivers mix in with the more outlandish troops too.

After they head out, it is time to defend the Pit. That’s up to the tiny team of Snake Eyes, Scarlett, Lt. Falcon, Mainframe, and Psyche Out. I’m worried that having this command team capably repel a Cobra invasion effectively makes the villains seem helpless. I mean, if a five person team can do that, does Cobra have a chance when there are dozens of active Joes?

The fight does get exciting in Sierra Gordo, though. Roadblock takes one for the team, and Stalker’s recon team has to get creative in order to face down the super-Bats Cobra has stocked in the country. The story has some nice moments for Polly and Junkyard too; Joe pets are silly, but man, that’s part of the gig!

Shannon Gallant’s action scenes steal the show in this trade. There are all sorts of shootouts and action sequences, and the story is always clear. As always, I love his modern takes on the classic Joe costumes. I will say the faces and features seem a bit blurry on a fair amount of the cast. I’m not sure if this is a reproduction issue (do faces look better in floppy format?) or if it could be from blowing up Gallant’s art from a smaller size.

In any case, this remains one of my favorite comic. The top 3 has been entrenched for some time now; G.I. Joe Real American Hero, Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, and BPRD. All GOOD comics on the rack. 

Am I the only one getting a flashback with that cover?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Original Sin #1

Oof. I know this comic is about space-murder, but man, what a downer.

Seriously. I’m kind of shocked that Jason Aaron wrote this one, as there is no evidence of the sense of fun and adventure that permeated his other Marvel works. I can’t blame Allan Heinberg and Ed Brubaker, because their work is usually right up my alley too. Could it be that there were too many cooks in the kitchen?

And almost nothing happens. The Avengers talk about some steak, investigate poor Uatu’s crime scene, and then the many varied players start assembling for their team-ups. Perhaps part of my problem is that everything in this issue had pretty much been revealed in interviews and preview materials. For whatever reason, the only thing that caught my interest in the whole issue was the scene when Spidey and the Thing took on the Mindless One. I’m gonna need a whole lot more of that type of stuff to come back, though.

I will admit to being intrigued at some of the team-ups. There is a lot of potential in mixing and matching the Marvel U heroes like action figures. Why shouldn’t Ant Man team up with White Queen? I sure hope Black Panther isn’t teaming up with a villain. I know that moral compromises are the fuel for New Avengers, but I dropped that book for a reason. I’m confident that Aaron is writing him to get a good moment, though. I’m not too worried.

And the angst! Geez, this was full of the portentous, dire dialogue that made Infinity bleed purple (prose). Nick Fury is worried that the killer might be a good guy! Actually, looking back, almost all my problems with this involve Nick Fury. He’s just a boring element who barely moves the plot. All he does is walk on panel and glower.

Mike Deodato’s art is pretty darn nice. I don’t care for the space suits on the Avengers, but I love the Mindless One fight. The action is dynamic and the rubble has a nice variety of size and weight. There is a tad too much Photoshop in the backgrounds, but the foreground figures are solid throughout.

I’m not an idiot, I know murder mysteries can’t be “fun,” exactly, but the comic shouldn’t feel like a chore to read. I’m reading Infinity on Marvel Unlimited, and it is really not good. If Original Sin is going to read in a similar dour fashion, I may just cut out now. 

I liked the 0 issue, though, and Aaron has written enough excellent comics for me to give this EVIL comic one more chance to redeem itself. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Before Watchmen: Comedian

Before Watchmen Wednesday!

Brian Azzarello’s contributions to the Before Watchmen mythos skew closer to Darwyn Cooke’s original stories than Len Wein’s well-meaning attempts to mine old ground. That said, of Azzarello’s two books, Comedian isn’t quite as compelling.

The Comedian’s story is very tied in to the time period, with the main crux of the plot involving the Kennedy’s, Viet Nam, and the politics surrounding both. I’ll admit there were a few times that I’m sure the impact would have been a bit stronger for me if I was more familiar with the players of the time period. (For example, that is G. Gordon Liddy working with Nixon, but I just don’t know enough about him to fully appreciate the interactions.)

As a back story, this doesn’t really explain why Edward Blake is the way he is. The guy is a violent monster in this too, and there is no true “origin” story to speak of. Now, Blake clearly has some sort of break while fighting for the US Government in Viet Nam, but we don’t ever see what made Blake quite this cruel.

What is interesting is that Azzarello gives us glimpses to a Comedian that understands how far gone he really is. There are quiet moments, moments between the massacres and beatings that show that Blake is capable of feeling something besides disgust and rage. When Blake and Moloch share a drink to mourn the passing of an American icon together, it is a great humanizing scene. There are enough scenes like that peppered through the collection to make it compelling.

I’m not sure I ever understood the actual narrative, though. The story doesn’t exactly have a beginning, middle, and end. Instead, this is a glimpse into the Comedian’s life during a very destructive era. It is an illuminating glimpse, but the lack of clear plot kept me from getting more immersed in the story.

J.G. Jones does a fabulous, job, as always. One thing is certain, after seeing his take on the different Comedian costumes (like the one he wears on patrol in Viet Nam); Jones has a knack for realistic portrayal of super-hero costumes. He has a gift for celebrity faces too, but I’m afraid that the constant touch points to the real world took me out of the story a bit.

This is a FAIR comic, but not required reading. I would have liked to have seen a few other Watchmen characters too, especially Silk Spectre, considering how important the two characters are to each other’s development.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Southern Bastards #1

So, this isn’t Scalped. And I’m not sure that is a bad thing. Scalped is one of my favorite comics of all time, but man, it is emotionally exhausting. You feel like you’ve had a long day after reading a collection of Scalped stories. Southern Bastards still feels like a Jason Aaron comic, but maybe one that won’t be quite as emotionally exhausting.

Earl Tubb is our protagonist. He’s an escapee from the small town in Craw County where our story takes place. He’s a man who only comes home to clean things up and race back out again, hoping his return lasts only three days, or maybe even two. Earl promises someone on the phone that he’s not sticking around, and in this first issue we never see who it is he’s talking to. That’s a nice narrative lead that Aaron can pick up on later, as is the fact that Earl’s uncle has moved into a nursing home. The Uncle is in a home, not dead, and therefore an excellent source of future drama, exposition, and plot development. Aaron knows what he’s doing.

Craw County feels like a pretty corrupt place from the start. If the pooping dog on page one or the fact that “Boss” owns everything in town, then the orange wash hanging over every panel would probably give you the right idea. It’s a place Earl wants to get away from, but just going out to get dinner starts to get him tangled up.

It’s interesting that Aaron loves these stories about men returning home to places they’d rather leave behind. Dash Bad Horse wanted out of the Rez, and Earl wants out of Craw County. While Dash had orders to stay, Earl gets involved in some local criminal enforcement from someone called “the Coach.” I don’t think the Coach will take kindly to having his boy’s smacked around with a fry basket. That’s another similarity between Dash and Earl; they are both ass kickers.

Jason LaTour does a nice job with the action, everything is clear. The book has a lot of flashbacks, most of them wordless. But the parallels between past and present are effective and striking. LaTour does a nice job with the cast, too. It can’t have been easy to give these similar characters their own look and personality, but LaTour pulls it off. You can get vibes from these characters just from the “acting” on their faces. Especially the reluctance from Earl.

This is a GOOD introduction to another compelling crime comic. But that $3.50 price tag is disappointing. If Image is boosting their prices now, my budget is going to go even shorter than it is now!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Silver Surfer #1 & 2

What a delight. From the opening page through each and every “PLORP,” this comic is just unapologetic fun.

I knew I was enjoying the book, based on the insane synergy of Dan Slott and Mike Allred. The wacky aliens, the tremendous poses, the insane 50’s style tech. These are all design elements Allred’s fans know and love, so seeing them implanted in the Marvel U was always going to be awesome. And Slott clearly knows his Surfer, too. In the second issue, he actually works in the Surfer crying out “Where the Surfer soars, he soars alone!” If there is one thing I love about the Surfer, it is that NO ONE mopes about his situation more. That dude can WHINE! And I love it!

What I wasn’t expecting was the Dr. Who twist of giving the Surfer a manic pixie dream girl companion to guide along the space ways. Dawn Greenwood is a tremendous breath of fresh air in Norrin Radd’s world. She brings a sense of joy and excitement to every page. Seeing her instantly bond with great alien extras like Mr. Plorp is priceless. The calm way she takes in all the madness after living her life in an isolated vacation town proves that she needs to see more worlds too. The glimpses of possible futures in issue 2 shows that she has a lot of potential with the Surfer personally too.

Mike Allred’s surfer is, of course, amazing. The poses are fantastic, the alien vistas are stunning, and the actual aliens are original and amusing. I also wish we could have seen more of the mighty hero Battle Jack! Maybe his father will get in the armor soon? I also have to laugh at the conveniently placed polka dots on Dawn’s shirt. That isn’t a coincidence, right?

This is an EXCELLENT comic. Plus, it is another book I can read with my daughters. The combination of the Surfer’s inherent coolness and a plucky Earth girl has made this one of their most anticipated reads. They are asking me every day if the next issue is out!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

FCBD: Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #0

Wow. A lot happened in that! I’m not sure exactly what John Barber and Tom Scioli are going for in their psychedelic mash-up of Jack Kirby and Herb Trimpe, but it sure isn’t boring!

The madness opens in space, where Starscream is chasing Bumblebee towards a backwater planet. The Cybertronian dialogue all shows up like wavy lines of static, with helpful translations from the editor in the bottom of the panel. This odd presentation immediately drills in the alien-ness of the Transformers. That’s hard to do with properties we know this well. It’s an effective tactic that holds up as the point of view switches to the residents of that backwater planet. The G.I. Joes on Earth.

There are a lot of Joes in this issue, but the spotlight is a bit more focused. Hawk, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, and Duke are the leads, but they aren’t exactly the versions we know and love. Hawk carries a tomahawk. Snake Eyes is a trained ninja, but he’s a handsome blonde with no mask. Duke is a rookie hitting on Scarlett during combat. Of the group, only Scarlett has consistent characterization (as a butt-kicker) from other Joe comics I’ve read. The cast is a lot more expansive, with Stalker, Heavy Metal, Bazooka, Roadblock, Doc, Ace, Wild Bill, and more all getting little ID cards. We also see Cobra Commander shoot and kill Zap and Short Fuse along with a few unnamed Joes. I guess it doesn’t pay to wear a generic green costume in this book; Steeler, Grunt, and the rest of the originals had better get some fancy new gear quick!

Things turn out a bit rough for the heroes in this. After the battle between Autobot and Decepticon clashes into the Joe/Cobra conflict, things get confusing, with the two battles combining, but no one really realizing just what’s going on. In the end, Bumblebee has lost his head and Snake Eyes might have some scarring to blame on Cobra Commander.

I’m honestly puzzled on how to grade this book. Scioli’s art is dynamic, fun, and anatomically creative. The action is always clear, even if it isn’t exactly clean or realistic. I love that this will clearly be a book with a lot of cameos from old favorites. If this was my only option to read about the Joes or Transformers, I’d be all over this. But with IDW already publishing so many excellent books like Real American Hero and More Than Meets the Eye, I’m hard-pressed to find this required reading.

I’m not sure how the plotting and scripting split out either, since Barber and Scioli discuss their process in the back material of the book, it seems like this is pretty much a team effort. This is a FAIR comic, and an entertaining one. But the fact that it isn’t the best place to find the Joes OR the Transformers means I will probably stick with the books I’m already buying. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Amazing Spider-Man #1 (2014)

So here we are, a pretty Saturday morning, heading out for Free Comic Book Day. Westfield Comics has two posters up that my daughters are looking at as they get excited about picking up free comics. One poster is the cover to this issue, with a very happy-looking Peter Parker joyously swinging over New York, reveling in being a super hero. The other poster is Batman Eternal #1, showing the dour Dark Knight splashed in blood brooding on a rooftop. Now, I admit the Batman image is striking, and well within the expectations for the character. But I asked my daughter, “who’s blood do you think that is?” and she couldn’t answer. I can’t either. At this point, I honestly don’t know which is more likely, that Batman would be posing on rooftops after getting the crap kicked out of him, or if he’s stand around showing off the tremendous about of blood he managed to wring out of some criminal. Either way, I know which comic I want to read.

Dan Slott has clearly been waiting to bring back Peter Parker. There are multiple things in this issue that simply would not have worked with Doc Ock in the webs. The silliest part is Skein (formerly Gypsy Moth) dissolving Spidey’s costume. Spider-Woman’s response to this is absolutely perfect, and nails the tone Slott wants in this issue. Peter Parker has crazy adventures, folks, and he’s got bad luck that won’t always hurt him, but he isn’t going to come out looking good.

Slott takes time to check in with most of Pete’s supporting cast, and they all seem pretty OK with the returned Spidey. I’m one of those older readers that will always pine for a return to the Pete & MJ dynamic, but it certainly doesn’t seem imminent here. That’s OK, at this point most new readers wouldn’t even recognize that as an acceptable status quo. I also love that the cliffhanger comes from a Peter Parker relationship, not from a super-villain. If that doesn’t scream “Spider-Man” then I don’t know what does.

I LOVE the villains used in this issue. I’m not the world’s biggest Humberto Ramos fan, but he does draw striking ladies, so giving him a team of cute animal gals (and the Hippo) is a good choice. White Rabbit is fun as always (maybe Marvel should start treating her like Harley Quinn?), and Skein is always interesting. Although I have to say, I don’t know how to pronounce her name. The newest member of the Rabbit’s Menagerie is a panda villain with the type of too-clever pun name that makes comic books work.

One other comment on Ramos’ art; my daughter didn’t says he disliked it, but she did comment that Spidey looked awfully skinny to have such huge muscles! She also commented that the art looked a lot like one of her other favorites; Nova.

This is a fun, entertaining comic and a GOOD sign that Spider-Man’s continuing adventures are still in good hands. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

FCBD: DC: Future's End #0

I’m so desensitized to the ridiculous, over-the-top violence in DC’s books that I didn’t even notice when Batman got his arms chopped off during the climax of this comic. I mean, let’s face it, that was the third arm to be chopped off so far, after Captain Cold got sliced in the opening pages. Clearly, DC has created yet another TOTALLY RADICAL TO THE EXTREME COMIC that shows COMICS AREN’T FOR KIDS, TOUGH GUY!

There is something to be said for a good alternate reality/alternate future storyline. The danger lies when the situation is too repetitive and when you go to the well too often. DC steps in both narrative piles in this premiere issue.

So let’s think of the recent alternate future/world storylines where we saw our heroes brutally massacred. (The main strength of these stories is in playing “spot the character” right before their heads get blown off.) We have Age of Ultron, which even had robots taking over the world. We had Flashpoint, which was a similar “spot the angry hero” book. Rotworld is an example that came out in the DCU just a few months ago. And heck, the main villain, Brother Eye, was the main antagonist for much of the Infinite Crisis era of tripe that came out and necessitated the New 52. This has got to be a record, right? The panned storyline that killed the DCU is ALREADY being repeated?

The other risk is that when you are constantly telling What If’s and alternate futures that feature gory deaths, the bar gets raised. We JUST saw these heroes warped and turned in Rotworld. It isn’t amazing or shocking seeing it again so soon. And as for the deaths? There are so many that those are in danger of losing their impact too. After Flash, Captain Cold, Blue Beetle, John Stewart, Amethyst, and Grifter, does anyone really take Batman's death seriously?

The only thing I found interesting in this comic was the introduction of Batman Beyond. As someone too old to have seen the cartoon, I don’t’ know the character. I want to see what inspired the fans who love Terry so much. But I don’t see anything yet, because the star of Future’s end only appears on about a quarter of the pages in this preview comic.

This thing has a bevy of writers (and artists) but to be honest, I didn’t detect a real tone from any of the folks involved. Maybe a bit of Jeff Lemire’s grossness from Rotworld oozed through in the form of those dismembered spider-robots that used to be heroes. But other than that, no characters actually speak enough for any particular writers’ voice to come through.

The art has that same house look that so many DC books are sporting these days. It is a little surprising that Dan Jurgens and Ethan Van Sciver can make their pencils mesh so well, but that says a lot about how effectively their styles are merging into the DCU style.

As many other reviewers have said, this is a perfect Free Comic Book Day issue. It shows you exactly what the new 52 is all about, and it promises more of the same. EVIL.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #28

Folks, if that cover doesn't get your attention, I'm not sure we can be friends. 

What kind of a world do we live in where my favorite comic is Transformers? Am I 10 years old again? James Roberts has done the impossible; he’s writing a toy comic that is actually at the top of my stack when it comes out.

Dark Cybertron happened, OK? Enough said. Let’s move on to “Season 2” of the Lost Light and their quest for the Knights of Cybertron. As the characters often state, the supposed destination of the Autobot ship is less important than the journey, so once again the strength of the issue lies in the characterization and in the seeding of future plots. Roberts seeded his first 20 or so issues better than any other author I can think of in MTMtE #1, so let’s see how many I can spot now.

The cast is expanding in a big way. We’ve got Bluestreak. We’ve got Nautica (how did the franchise exist for so long without female characters?) Private investigator Night Beat smells a mystery in some missing door numbers. We’ve got our old favorites coming back like Rung, Swerve, and Ultra Magnus. Do you really think Chromedome is just sitting around grieving? Or is there something else going on?

But where’s the illustrious leader? Why have we not seen Hot Rod on the ship? Did something happen between him and new Captain Megatron?

That’s right, the Lost Light, an Autobot ship, is now under the command of Megatron. And it is clearly his ship. Ultra Magnus, Blaster, and Perceptor all salute him when he finally makes it to the bridge. But not everyone is happy; we see Whirl try to instigate Megatron into a brawl. And for once, Whirl isn’t acting on his own; this is part of a bigger plan.

There are a lot of flashbacks in this issue, as we see Megatron prepare for his trial. My biggest gripe about this is that Roberts writes a fantastic Prowl, but we know that Prowl ends up in the cast of Robots in Disguise, so the police car’s time in this book is limited. (Who would have thought that Prowl would become such a valued part of the Transformers mythos?)

And then, a coffin. Who’s in it? Rewind? Drift? Another new character? I can’t get enough of this book. Roberts has done such a good job in the past, I’m certain there are more narrative seeds here to bear fruit in future issues.

Alex Milne’s art. What can I say? The guy does some of the best big robots I’ve ever seen. He has made me love characters I used to despise, Ultra Magnus being the best example. I spend each and every issue looking in backgrounds to see who Milne sneaks in so I can pore over the details. Any chance for more Hound or some more G1 classics? I’d love to see Brawn get involved again…

This is an EXCELLENT long-form science fiction comic with a top-notch cast and a rewarding story. Don’t think of it as a toy comic. Think of it as the one of the most consistently written, best illustrated books on the stands.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Avengers: The Enemy Within TPB

There are some stories that I just plain don’t like. I’m not sure if I’ve seen them too many times, or if they just seem like they needlessly halt any forward momentum in the narrative. Of the plots that annoy me, giving the main character amnesia is near the top of my pet peeves.

So the fact that this storyline ends with Captain Marvel wiping her mind and being “blank” to all of her old friends and memories? That’s pretty much guaranteed to leave me cold. Perhaps if I was more invested during the main plot, I might have bought in more.

I like Kelly Sue DeConnick’s use of Yon-Rogg as the main villain. He’s a good scumbag with Kree ties, making him a natural for Carol Danvers’ rogues’ gallery. I think part of my apathy comes from using the Kree Sentries as a bulk group. They aren’t pushovers, but when the Avengers are splitting up to fight them all over the world, they just aren’t as neat as when there is only one or two there to dominate the heroes.

You know what is almost as annoying to me as amnesia? The hero loses powers story. So watching Captain Marvel zip around on a huge space-bike doesn’t exactly endear the story to me either. That said, bonus points for using both Wasp and Sersi!

Another nail in the coffin is the consistently weak art that has cursed Captain Marvel since she renamed herself. Perhaps using a more clear-cut super-hero artist might help, but at this point, I have a hard time getting invested in the unclear and overly stylized work in this story. Look at those covers; if the interior art looked like that, I’d be a heck of a lot more interested.

I know people love this book, and I’m clearly in the wrong that it isn’t connecting for me. For me, this is AVERAGE.

I’m going to give the new series a chance, though. I think a more “normal” artist is going to go a long way for me!