Thursday, December 31, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: Uncanny X-Men #325 (1995)

Maybe it is because this is an anniversary issue, but I actually remember this issue from my first read! It isn't that great of a comic, so I'm not sure why it stuck in my head. Perhaps it is due to the first appearance of Marrow, modern classic that she is.

One striking thought about Marrow is that she has gotten quite cleaned up over the years. Joe Madureira's Marrow is a lot uglier, with bad skin and bone spurs sticking out all over her body. In the modern era, Marrow is a lot more of a looker. I'm not opposed to the change, especially since she joined the X-Men.

Mad's kinetic artwork is always exciting, even if the proportions and perspective don't always match up. But that's OK, because this is hyper four-color action in the mighty Marvel manner. To this day, I don't think there is anyone who draws a better Beast than Joe Mad.

Scott Lobdell opens hte issue with that old X-Men chestnut; the inter-team baseball game. I'm not going to lie, it is pretty nice seeing the team like this again. Cyclops pitching, M at bat, Beast playing catcher, it just has a sense of family and fun that has been missing from the X-Men for a long, long time. Seriously, when was the last time that the X-books felt fun? Schism was dark, but I think it goes much further. M-Day was rough. That is going back a long, long time for a depressing era of mutant comics.

The modern darkness is even more striking because the characters in this book are constantly talking about how bad things are. Colossus returns after abandoning the team (and he's in a truly awful costume to make things worse). Wolverine is still rocking bone claws and a savage attitude. Cyclops? He's still the cool leader wearing a sleeveless hooded sweatshirt and ball cap. As a Colossus fan, I have to admit this is a very dark time for the character. He was hooking up with Callisto for heaven's sake! Domino is a pretty massive improvement!

The Gene Nation are never a huge threat in this issue. Vessel, Sack, and the other gross bozos are basically fodder for the X-team as Marrow takes on Storm. Marrow has attached a detonator to her heart, so if Storm fails to kill her, a bunch of humans will get blown up. It is kind of surprising seeing Storm just do what needs to be done and kill Marrow. (Of course, we know that this death doesn't stick for long.)

Lobdell does a nice job leveraging Storm and Wolverine's friendship as Storm deals with what she's done. These two characters have had a strong relationship for many years, something I didn't really remember.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: Uncanny X-Men #324 (1995)

If you like action, then this one is for you, True Believers!

Not even the average art of Roger Cruz can dampen the mood when Sack and Vessel take on Cannonball, Wolverine, Beast, and Storm. And to be honest, I'm being a tad harsh. While the art isn't great, Cruz does a nice job on Beast, Cannonball, and the two villains. Wolverine looks a little too crazy for me (his mask would help) and Storm's sudden morphing into street clothes confused me for half the issue.

And Psylocke's psychic battle armor? Atrocious and weird. How could a metal suit cling that tightly to her butt?

Vessel's powers are a bill ill-defined; he can absorb the souls or psychic and physical power from those he kills. With 33 kills at a nearby nightclub, he's got enough in the tank to make it tough on Wolvie, Beast, and Storm. I do like bad guys that just take a big pounding, though. There is nothing too complicated in taking down the villain, just lots of punches, slashes, and lightning bolts.

Cannonball takes on Sack one on one in an enjoyable little fight that shows off the coolness of the "invulnerable while blasting" aspect of Cannonball's powers. That's always been one of the coolest powers in the comics and seeing it work against a weird possession villain is a neat twist.

The two villains reveal themselves as part of the Gene Nation, a group with ties to the Morlocks. Storm doesn't know exactly how that fits in with her memories of the underground mutant community, but I seem to remember this story introducing Marrow and bringing back a certain overpowered Russian mutant too. We'll see if I'm right in the upcoming issues.

The mysterious Gambit subplot isn't doing anything for me, just because whatever it is that Psylocke is looking for probably isn't that big a deal; I don't remember anything that affects the character these days. The Iceman and Rogue road trip is still weird too. Rogue is struggling to deal with a kiss with Gambit where she absorbed his memories, but again, Gambit just doesn't have enough interesting backstory to justify two subplots.

But the subplots don't take too many pages and most of the issue is straight-up action. I always appreciate that.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: Uncanny X-Men #323 (1995)

The hardest part about these reviews is finding the dang issue number on the front of the comic. Seriously, take a look at that cover and try to find it. Aargh!

This issue has pencils by a guy who I think could go places. Some dude named Bryan Hitch. How crazy is the run of artists on this title so far. It certainly isn't hurting matters having top notch artists working on all these old books. Many of them are still favorites of mine today.

Hitch does a decent job with the issue. He clearly enjoys drawing Rogue as she spends the entire issue in a tiny top and cut off jean shorts while road tripping with Iceman. Rogue maximizes every opportunity to stretch out and show off her outfit. Something tell me that it isn't doing anything for Iceman... (One small note, the previous issue described their road trip as being "ON THE RUN" and that really overstates the stakes of a flat tire.)

I don't love Hitch's design for Storm, a more regal-looking suit with a weird topknot. But the rest of the X-Men look good, I especially enjoyed the over-the-top hallucination of Emma Frost plaguing poor Iceman.

Back at the mansion, Archangel and Psylocke are flirting it up in the Danger Room (making sure to show off Psylocke's tiny swimsuit) while Cannonball takes care of the lobotomized Sabretooth. One thing that is clear from re-reading these issues is that everything is crossing over. Marvel clearly didn't think there were a lot of people reading this book but not X-Men or Wolverine. the plots are picked up and continued and cliff-hangered into and out of all the different books. Crazy.

I love Cannonball's early days on the X-Men. He was a refreshing voice and his attitude made older characters like Wolverine feel more dangerous. Cannonball had that generic costume too, which made him feel even more like a recent graduate to the X-Men. He is a great reader identification character.

The foils for this one are the now simple Sabretooth (who you just know is gonna be trouble) and the hilariously named Sack and Vessel. Sack looks like a wet glob around a skeleton who can slime into folks and control them while Vessel seems to be muscular. You've got to love mid-90's code names, huh?

Decent action, subplots, and nice art. I have to admit I'm enjoying this year's X-Mas!


Monday, December 28, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: Uncanny X-Men #322 (1995)

Age of Apocalypse? Skipped it. We're back here with Uncanny X-Men after that whole hullaballoo wrapped up, with the start of a "modern classic" with Onslaught!

This issue is full of one of my favorite X-Men tropes, where the team is just sitting around waiting to be attacked. It would be better if they were in the mansion waiting, but I'll take what I can get.

The issue opens with Archangel (still with blue skin and blonde mullet) meeting up with his former love interest Charlotte, a cop who shows him a horrible new crime committed by a mutant on some human kids at a club. I'm more interested in the use of Warren Worthington's past as a plot device. The guy has had so many girlfriends he could probably launch a series just dealing with their issues. It's worth noting that Scott Lobdell does a nice job playing up the anti-mutant racism that is such a calling card of the X-Men. Most of the cops can't stand seeing Archangel at the crime scene, and one actually takes a shot at him!

Elsewhere, Beast and Bishop are leaving Pulp Fiction when the Juggernaut comes sailing down the street and crashes at their feet. Joined by Psylocke, the three X-Men actually do pretty well taking on the greatly weakened Juggernaut. I appreciated the constant commentary from Beast about how the three of them wouldn't even have a shot had Juggsy not been on his last legs. And who hurt Cain Marko this badly? Onslaught of course.

There is also an interlude with Wolverine, Storm, and Siryn, but all that did was make me wish that Siryn had spent some more time on the main X-Men roster taking her Dad's spot. Wouldn't it have been neat seeing her taking Banshee's spot on some pin-up style pages? Did that happen and I'm just not remembering it?

Tom Grummett provides the artwork and I have to say I loved it. The bright colors, the classic Beast and classic Juggernaut were a joy. I loved Siryn's look so much it actually made me want to see more of her. And I loved that Storm's walk in the rain would have been totally exploitative if drawn by a different artist (all she was wearing was a wet white dress). Grummet, Epting, and Garney, what a great run of talent on this book. Even early in their careers they are doing better work than a lot of modern X-artists.

I find myself really enjoying these back issues. Is it because they are actually decent or is it because I read them long ago and they imprinted on my impressionable mind?


Sunday, December 27, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: Uncanny X-Men #321 (1995)

Uhhhh.... there is some weird stuff in this one, folks.

This is part 3 of Legion Quest, so Scott Lobdell (plot) and Mark Waid (script) certainly have to deal with some mid-chapter nonsense for about half the book. The X-Men have teamed up with the Sh'iar to build a whacko device to send Cable's "astral self" to the past. This gives Cyclops, Rogue, Gambit, Beast, Jean Grey, Archangel, and Cable a chance to talk tough. This amused me since essentially only two X-Men were necessary for the scene. Jean Grey had to boost her powers and Cable had to go back in time. Maybe you could argue Beast helped build the gigantic time-phone, but other than that? Just grimacing and promises from the rest of the team.

In the past, the team is trapped in Israel, robbed of their memories. This is convenient since it means that Iceman, Bishop, Storm, and Psylocke haven't actually accomplished anything since we last saw them. By the end of the issue, Cable reminds them that they have a job to do (save the world, of course) but any actual conflict is going to be saved for part 4 in another title.

I did enjoy seeing Professor X and Magneto bonding in their younger days. This story is set shortly after they became friends, so the bonds are just starting, but the two guys clearly respect each other. I always thought this was a fascinating relationship and I enjoyed Marvel spending so much time expanding on it over the years. Clearly lots of people feel that way since the current X-Men movie franchise is built on the Charles/Erik bromance.

Remember when I said Legion wasn't very likable last issue? Then used his powers to go back in time? Well, in this one he uses his powers to impersonate his father and start kissing his mother. I can't really see what this accomplishes regarding his greater plot. I also can't figure out how far we are supposed to think Legion got with his emotionally disturbed parent. Either way... ewwww. Between this and the Ms. Marvel baby thing in Avengers 200 and Power Girl's pregnancy in the '90s, I really start to worry about the mental health of the comic book community.

Ron Garney provides the pencils for this one and much like Steve Epting a few issues ago, you can see how skilled this guy is. Sure, Archangel and Cyclops are built like tanks rather than their normal body shape. Rogue's eyes also take up more than a third of her face. But man, Beast is rocking a sweet mullet and Gambit looks TOUGH. Best of all, the action choreography of the opening bar fight is well done, including some nice facial expressions on all the combatants.

Fair (but almost Good)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: Uncanny X-Men #320 (1995)

I'm having a hard time remembering exactly how the rosters were working for the X-Men around these issues. I thought it was still X-Men Blue and X-Men Gold teams, but the groups have been all mixed up for both issues. Were we already in the era of no set rosters?

In any case, this issue stars Storm, Jean Grey, Iceman, Bishop, and Psylocke as they travel to Israel to take on Legion in Legion Quest part 1. I'm not sure why the X-Men would only send a small team to take on god-level mutant, but that is neither here nor there.

This is a marked improvement over the previous issue. Scott Lobdell gets a dialogue assist from Mark Waid, so of course the quality is going to bump up some. Unfortunately, some unclear artwork and a very non-linear story don't make for a good mix.

Roger Cruz is not bound by the normal rules of comic book storytelling, so odd-shaped panels bounce the reader's eye all over the place. There are arrows to help you find the next panel in some cases, but not all. Then there are some pages that go across two pages and some that don't, all in all, this is a very hard issue to read.

I forgot how much I used to like Jean Grey. As a noted hater of telepaths, that takes something for me to admit. But her competence as team co-leader, her immense power levels, and that sweet pouch-filled '90s outfit make her a pretty neat character. Teen Jean just can't cut it when compared with the original.

Bishop does little more than scream, Iceman and Psyclocke are window dressing. Jean Grey manages to take on Legion for a few pages, but most of the issue is Legion showing off his new power levels. He takes Storm on a little time jaunt to show that he can now go back in time. I really like that the X-Men have basically given up by page one, leaving the entire battle in the hands of Storm. Storm is powerful, of course, but I never dreamed she'd be the character best equipped to take on Legion.

David Haller/Legion comes off as a whiny kid, as he always does. There is often a kindness to his character too, but in this issue he doesn't exhibit much to sympathize with. He's pretty cruel when he taunts Storm with a chance to change traumas in her past. C'mon David, why go through that just to upset Storm?


Friday, December 25, 2015

12 Days of X-Mas: Uncanny X-Men #319 (1994)


I've been a little hard on the X-Men for a few years now. Hating on Bendis and now accusing Marvel of burying the team to put the shine on the Inhumans. Just last week I wrote about how poor I found the new flagship book to be in the X-line. But now, it is time for my annual 12 Days of X-Mas. We know Grant Morrison's run was sublime. We know Chuck Austen's run made readers' eyes bleed. So let's pick an era that gets less attention. Let's look at the mid-1990's.

In the glory days of 1994, were the X-Men comics as good as I remember?

Randomly starting with issue 319, it seems I may have been off. This is clearly one of the "rest" issues between big storylines (I believe Phalanx Covenant had just wrapped up and Age of Apocalypse was about to begin.)

This issue only follows a few of the X-Men, and each story is more boring than the last. Iceman and Rogue get the most page time, but they spend it all moping. This is firmly in the time when I was certain that Iceman was about to come out as a gay man (it just took another 21 years). The heavy-handed, purple prose from writer Scott Lobdell makes it clear that there was a new direction for the character on the way. And since the issue focused on Bobby Drake's difficult relationship with his parents and Bobby's trouble with relationships, it seems like this was right in line with 1994 thinking on the subject.  Rogue is a supportive friend here, with little of the fire that has made her into one of my favorite characters. Steve Epting does a wonderful job with her, though. Even in street clothes she looks fantastic.

Archangel (rocking blue skin and a blonde mullet) and Psylocke are getting together in the second storyline. And again, the dialogue is painful. The two talk about whether they should pursue their mutual attraction or if it is too complicated in the X-Men's world. I always liked these two together.

The last storyline sets up Age of Apocalypse, with Professor X's son Legion showing up in an ominous dream, threatening about how the world would be better had Professor X and Magneto not split the mutants over the last decades. I suppose this counts as some sort of action, but really, it is a dream, so I can't count it.

What a waste of Steve Epting's talents. He's the guest penciller here, and knowing how good he was even in 1994, I wish he had been able to show off his skills on some good villains or at least our core cast in uniform.

One last question: how do Archangel's wings work? That cover has me confused!


Friday, December 18, 2015

New Avengers #1-3

This one was off to a slow start, but Al Ewing has made up for a slow premiere issue with a couple nice follow-ups.

First of all, I appreciate how quickly the team dispatched their first adversary, the Ultimate Universe's Maker. I'm not a fan of the core concept (Evil Reed) so I don't usually enjoy his appearances. Calling him Maker and giving him the silly helmet only help a bit.

The second round of antagonists seem a bit more fun. A cult of mixed-heritage Kree and Skrulls are either new friends or new enemies for our heroes, it is too early to tell which. Either way, I was surprised at how much my daughters enjoyed the silliness surrounding Hulkling's role as the group's savior. Ewing is doing a nice job getting my kiddos to appreciate the former Young Avenger. They also liked Power Man poking holes in Wiccan's code name. It doesn't take a lot, just a little hook to get them interested in new characters.

The sell was a lot easier on the rest of the cast. My gals loved Mighty Avengers over the past few years, so Power Man and White Tiger are already solidly in the "cool" column for them. Squirrel Girl? Well, they are obsessed with her, so she's a huge win. Songbird has a place in their hearts from the old Ultimate Alliance 2 video game. They (like their Dad) prefer the "real" Hawkeye over his current movie counterpart though. They also don't seem very drawn to Sunspot. Hopefully Roberto can use some powers soon? Most of my affection for Sunspot goes back to the Cannonball days where they loved Magnum PI, so it would be great to see Roberto do a little more in the field (his powers are so wonderfully visual).

And I will point out that I love the idea of a Cthullu-esque villain from a former iteration of the universe as the first ongoing foil for the team. Maybe Ewing could throw in a magic-based guest star or two in upcoming issues.

Gerardo Sandoval's art rubbed us the wrong way at first, specifically with how crazy his Squirrel Girl looks. But by issue 2? The whole fam had bought in to the kinetic, frenetically paced artwork. Sandoval's art is a tad too cartoony for me, but my daughters love it.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Extraordinary X-Men #1-3

The highs and lows of Marvel's relaunch, summed up in one title.

Jeff Lemire has done some pretty good work, but I don't think his X-Men run is off to a good start. The lineup is an odd one, having to substitute in Old Man Logan and Teen Jean since the originals are dead. That alone throws off the familiar feel of the X-Men.

My bigger problem is the status quo of the new X-Haven. I think I would have preferred the X-Men heading off to another planet like the early rumors reported. Instead, (SPOILERS) the X-Men have relocated to Limbo, along with a ton of mutants. I don't know if every mutant is there or not, due to the 8-month jump hitting all the Marvel books.

The odd Limbo status quo is bad enough, but making things worse, this series fails my first issue test. If there is not a villain with "character" then your series doesn't have much to say. That is, when the book opens up with endless pages of faceless, generic bad guys, then there isn't much of a reason to come back to a title. Three issues in, and the team is still fighting generic Limbo demons. When stuck facing such boring foes, Iceman, Storm, Forge, and the rest of the Limbo team feel boring too.


There were brief moments of excitement for my daughters and I in issue 2 when Colossus and Magik face off with Mister Sinister. Lemire does a better job with the Piotr and Illyana than he does with any other character in the book. Unfortunately, there just isn't enough of them on the page.

You know who else isn't on the page and is supposedly dead? The most interesting X-character of the past few years. That kills my interest too.

Humberto Ramos continues to fill each page with dynamic pencils and great action. The character design is fine, although I'm not a huge fan of Jean Grey's new suit or Colossus' beard. He does a much better job with Storm and Iceman. They have a more classic feel. Ramos' Mister Sinister is suitably threatening too, but again, he's only one page.

This is looking like my first drop of All-New Marvel.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Daredevil #1

Listen, it isn't that I don't like Blindspot, DD's new protege. He's got a great hook after only one issue (along with a nice power set.)

But man, tell me you weren't intrigued back when we all thought that was Gambit on the cover! Imagine a book covering that team-up every month. Charles Soule created a great high concept by accident.

Nope, this book has an entirely different core concept. Clearly inspired by the Daredevil show on Netflix (Matt Murdock looks just like Charle Cox), this has a much darker tone than Mark Waid's recently wrapped run. Matt is now an assistant D.A., focused on putting people away rather than running their defense. And somehow his secret identity is back in the box. No one knows Matt is Daredevil except for his old buddy Foggy. And Foggy isn't happy about it.

I like Soule's new villain, the Ten Fingered Man. Ten fingers on each hand, that is! And some sort of obsession with fingers that passes on to his followers. The guy seems creepy and dark, already perfect for an upcoming Netflix season.

Ron Garney has been around a long time and I've always appreciated his art. It is pretty amazing seeing him transform himself once again. The noir-style art is sharp and detailed. There is an almost Scott McDaniel-ish sense of motion in Daredevil's action scenes. Oh, and there are only three colors in use. Black, white, and red. Everything is some shade or combination of these colors. It is a neat choice.

I miss Mark Waid's Daredevil. I loved the bright art and Matt Murdock's sunnier attitude. I liked the supporting cast and the positive attitude. That's not to say I don't like this new relaunch. I have faith that Soule will do a good job (as he always does). But man. I miss Waid and Samnee's Daredevil.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Vision #1-2

I had absolutely no plans to pick up this comic. I don't know Tom King's work. While I like Gabriel Walta's artwork, that wasn't enough to get me to try out this issue. Not with my sublist already ballooning.

But you know, there were so many positive reviews that I figured I could dish out another 4 bucks for issue one. Plus, it is set in my old hometown of Arlington, VA. Surely that's worth giving a book a try!

And now I have another book to buy every month.

Tom King is approaching this differently than any other book on the stands. While the story focuses on the lives of the Vision, his wife, and children, the book is tremendously gloomy. Thanks to an omniscient narrator, we already know that the Vision's attempts to lead a normal life are doomed. Something awful is going to happen. We don't know what it is, but we know it is coming. And watching Vision's experiment/dream fail is already fascinating.

King's Vision is cold, but not cruel. This is a different take than the one we normally see, but it works. Vision's family is struggling to fit into a world they clearly don't belong in, and may not even want. School and neighborhood living are big challenges when you are green robots.

King seems to have a handle on the Vision's extensive ties to the Marvel Universe too. Grim Reaper shows up in issue 1 in a pretty climactic way. (Is there any charcter who exits series like this more than the Reaper? I mean, the guy has a bad track record...) I am really holding out hope that Wonder Man makes an appearance soon. With the ominous vibe permeating this book, I'm curious to see how Simon Williams would fit into his "brother's" world.

Walta's art is pitch-perfect for the book. The art is grounded, as it should be for an urban horror title. But those super-heroic elements necessary to place the book in the Marvel Universe are perfect. We don't see Vision saving the world, but this is clearly the same character who does that in other titles. Walta's greatest strength might be the "acting" of his characters. Their faces are so expressive, I think the book would work with no words.

This book probably won't be long for the publishing world, but man, pick this up while you can.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Captain America: Sam Wilson #1-3

Time for another of my absolute favorites from the Marvel relaunch.

Nick Spencer wow'ed me with Superior Foes of Spider-Man. He maintained that respect with his great work on Ant-Man. With his work on this title, he's graduated to must-read for me.

I've always been a fan of the Falcon, but even I'm impressed at how well Sam Wilson fills the role of Captain America. He's got the look down, with the shield fitting in much better with the wings than I ever thought it would. Most of all, Sam's idealism and hope are contagious. The same things that motivated the character as a community organizer make him a fantastic Captain America.

Spencer is cheating a bit too. I mean, including classic Captain America elements like Dr. Karl Malus, the Power Broker, and D-Man? And CAPWOLF??? CAPWOLF!

C'mon, that is like shooting fish in a barrel! And the biggest reveal, the one at the end of issue 3? I mean, the only way it could be better is if we were getting a return of the greatest snake of all! Spencer is balancing all these elements so deftly I'm confident he could handle that return too.

And Misty Knight works perfectly as Cap's new partner. Having her and D-Man as Cap's support team is brilliant; a blend of classic elements with new characters that make wonderful sense.

Daniel Acuna has been a favorite of mine since his work on Eternals. His style blends Jack Kirby and Alex Ross, making him one of my absolute top artists. The design on the returning characters is wonderful (Look at Misty on that cover!) D-Man looks tremendous! Best of all, Cap's costume looks classic under Acuna's pencil.

For those who haven't heard, there is a bit of controversy about just how liberal Sam Wilson is acting in the Cap role. Fox News, among others, have been pretty insulted by some of Spencer's content too. I suppose I could see the offense if I were of a different political mindset. But for me? If Sam Wilson keeps this up, he could end up my favorite Captain America.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Amazing Spider-Man #1-3

Dan Slott has been writing Spider-Man comics for a long time. And while I faded out a bit during the One More Day era, I have to say I’ve loved everything since Superior Spider-Man a few years ago. Once again, Slott has a new, fresh take on Spider-Man that is different than everything we’ve seen before but that still remains true to the Peter Parker we know and love.

Peter has finally used his brain to get himself rich. Parker Industries is doing big things in the world, and while he isn’t Tony Stark (yet) he’s doing pretty well for himself. Peter has employees, friends, family, and plenty of other supporting characters that should give plenty of opportunities for upcoming stories.

Best of all, Spider-Man almost has a super-team. Spider-Man has been on team books in the past, but he’s rarely the financier and driver behind the story. In this incarnation of the title, Spidey has Mockingbird as a SHIELD liaison and Clash as an employee struggling to give up his costumed identity. Best of all, Hobie Brown, the Prowler, is on the payroll too. The Prowler fits in the book perfectly as both a partner for super-heroics and as a straight man for Spidey’s buffoonery. It never hurts to see the Human Torch either, and playing him against a “friend rival” in Harry Osborne is a great move too. There were multiple times while reading these comics where my daughters and I laughed out loud.

In addition to the high concept and the guest-stars working perfectly, Slott is using one of the best “classic” villain teams in the Marvel U: The Zodiac. Sure, it is a new incarnation, but man, they are already a great team. The Zodiac is presented as a real threat with a large, well-financed organization and a cadre of super-villains at the top. And Slott is knocking their characterization out of the park. He is able to give bosses and flunkies alike delightful personalities in only a few lines of dialogue.

Giuseppe Camuncoli is an artist well-accustomed to Spider-Man, and he shows it. The new Spidey design is just a bit off from the classic look, so I accepted the new look with no reservations. The Zodiac designs are instantly recognizable and striking. I also like the design of the fleet of Spider-based vehicles and gear that Peter is able to show off these days. In fact, on those gorgeous Alex Ross covers, the new costume looks nearly as good as the original!


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Invincible Iron Man #1-3

Bendis always writes a good jerk, so it is not surprising that he’s doing a nice job with Tony Stark. Even in New Avengers, the billionaire was a good fit for Bendis’ talky habits. This title is pretty much the definition of a Bendis book. A thoughtful protagonist who spends more time talking than actually doing things. The use of classic guest-stars (Dr. Strange) and villains (Dr. Doom and Madame Masque) acting in out-of character ways is expected at this point too. The pacing is tremendously slow, again, as is the norm in Bendis’ super-hero work.

In fact, there hasn’t really been a whole lot of story traction accomplished in the first three issues of the book. Iron Man fought Madame Masque once or twice. Talked to Dr. Doom. Talked to Dr. Strange. Went on a date. Not really a whole heck of a lot of plot movement that I’ve been able to discern. And the oddest part is that somehow Marvel decided there was TOO MUCH story for just one Iron Man title. There is a second Bendis Iron Man title on the way. So weird!

And again, just as you’d expect, Bendis’ Iron Man features a fantastic artist that makes all of those weaknesses I listed above seem a whole lot more palatable. David Marquez’ clean-lined art is gorgeous. His Madame Masque redesign is new and dynamic, yet still checks all the required boxes for the character’s visual design. The new Iron Man armor is future-facing and original. I don’t love it as much I did the black and gold suit from the Kieron Gillen’s relaunch, but this is leagues better than the white armor from the Superior run. This series might be slow and verbose, but it sure is gorgeous.

I'm sticking with it for now, mostly for the art, but I'm also holding out that Bendis will ramp up the action too. 


Monday, December 7, 2015

Black Knight #1

After having a very small comic list for most of the summer and fall thanks to Marvel’s Secret Wars and the ongoing New 52 from DC, I haven’t had much to say for awhile.

Now that we are in the midst of the all-new Marvel relaunch, there is a lot more for me to weigh in on. A couple months in, let’s take a look at Marvel’s new output.

You don’t understand how badly I want this to be fantastic. Black Knight/Dane Whitman has been one of my favorite characters for decades. He was a central Avenger during my formative years, so he will always hold a place in my comic-reading heart. I was concerned with the launch of this book because while Frank Tieri is a solid writer, he’s not one of my favorites. That said, he’s clearly a fan of the character. So I had hope.

It turns out the measured hope I was holding out was pretty appropriate. Black Knight is stuck in Weirdworld, a fantastic high-fantasy or sci-fi setting. He’s already the leader of a group of somewhat heroic new characters yet he’s on the outs with his former allies in the Avengers. We don’t know exactly how either of those things happened, but we do know that Dane is struggling with the curse of the ebony blade. The curse is a long-standing part of the character and I like the use of the original Black Knight, Sir Percy, as an observer and witness warning Dane about the dangers he’s facing. So I’m OK with the high concepts in use here.

But man, the supporting characters (whose names I can’t even remember) are pretty bland. I also worry that exiling Dane to Weirdworld will take away a lot of the Avengers-based interactions that I loved about the character. As a watered down Game of Thrones lead, I don’t know that the Black Knight is interesting enough to anchor his own title.

Luca Pizzari is clearly going more for the fantasy feel. This doesn’t look or feel too much like the super-hero Black Knight that I prefer. That isn’t to say the art is bad, it is just a bit muddier than the stuff I prefer. I do like the more fantasy-based design for the title character, I just wish there was a way to show off the old John Buscema look too.

This is clearly not the Black Knight comic I’d prefer, but it isn't bad. Gonna keep giving it a shot! 


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The State of My Sublist: Fall 2015 (part 1)

School’s back in session (for my kids). The leaves are turning. There is a bite in the air in the early morning. Fall is here. Time for me to check back in!

This summer marked a sad new achievement for me; I went an entire month without visiting the comic book store. There simply were not enough comics coming out to make it worth driving over and picking them up. As someone who has made the weekly pilgrimage to the comic store for 30 years, I’m shocked at this development.

That said, I am still buying some comics on Comixology, so that would certainly have driven me into the shop if I didn't just download them on my tablet. And don’t think for a second I don’t like comics any more. I love them. There are still plenty of fantastic books out there.

  • Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye is simply brilliant. The stories can sometimes get a tad silly, but always with pitch-perfect characterization and masterful dialogue. James Roberts writes this book as if it is an excellent sitcom or dramedy, and I mean that as high praise. It is not hyperbole to say that these are the best Transformers comics ever published. This title needs to be held in the same regard as the “Bwa-ha-ha” era JLI. It is that good.
  • G.I. Joe: Real American Hero has somehow returned and maintained its place as the perfect nostalgia comic. Larry Hama’s continuing saga adds to the Joe canon while having enough repetition to remind me of the joys of reading comics as a kid. The Death of Snake Eyes should rightfully get more eyes on this book, as it is simply a joy to read every month.
  • Walking Dead and Invincible are easy to forget, because Robert Kirkman has been doing them so well for so long. The slow-burning horror of Walking Dead has achieved the perfect balance of hope and terror. Invincible’s current arc isn’t as dynamic as some of the recent madness in that title, but it is OK to give your characters a breather sometimes too.
  • Hellboy, B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth, and Abe Sapien continue to roll on as well. With the loss of institutions like Fables, it is easy to remember that Mike Mignola and John Arcudi have been creating the same epic, post-apocalyptic tale for over a decade. In the more recent BPRD trades, I feel like there is enough Hellboy-style super-heroic action to satisfy super-fans too.
  • And my beloved Astro City. How sad is it that I feel a stronger bond to the characters of this one title than I do to the entire DC Universe? It is not surprising, I guess. At this point, Astro City has a much longer and tighter continuity than the DCNU! Kurt Busiek’s masterpiece often speaks on aging and time, two subjects close to the audience’s hearts, I imagine. But rather than becoming maudlin, Astro City celebrates super-heroes and the passage of time in a poignant, interesting fashion. Heck, I never thought I’d need to read Astro City to get my Superman fix, but here we are!

Marvel still has a few titles holding on for me this summer. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a delight. Ant-Man is very entertaining. This Silver Surfer run will go down as a classic. But Daredevil is the pinnacle of what corporate super-comics can achieve. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee are wrapping up one of the best runs of my comic-reading career. Frank Miller was always too dark for me; THIS has been my favorite Daredevil era.  

DC Comics only has one book on my current sublist. All-Star Section Eight. I don’t love it, don’t hate it, but at least it reminds me of one of my favorite comics of all-time (Hitman). Garth Ennis can put out this kind of stuff in his sleep, I think. I tried Starfire, Cyborg, Martian Manhunter, and Justice League, but none blew me away. I really wanted to like them, but they felt too much like the new 52 or too far from the core character concepts that attracted me to the characters in the first place.

Image has had some good stuff too. The Fade Out, Trees, and Invisible Republic have all been intriguing. Valiant continues to be a great value on Comixology with the always entertaining Archer & Armstrong, Eternal Warrior, and X-0 Manowar.

But All-New, All-Different Marvel Now? That is going to be mighty expensive for me! 

To Be Continued!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Secret Wars Vacation

In an effort to stay excited about comics, I'm taking the summer off. It doesn't help that my sublist is very, very small during Secret Wars. My feelings about Jonathan Hickman's writing make for negative posts, which I'm trying to avoid.

I'm trying a few DC books, but I feel as though my opinions on DC's current output is very clear, so I don't want to dwell on being negative there either. (So far, I like Justice League, Starfire was average, and I'm in on Section 8 until the end.)

I'll see you guys again this fall when Marvel relaunches their entire line! In the meantime, I'll still be posting nonsense on Twitter. You can find me at @MrTimbotron!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A-Force #1

Boy, I really wanted to love this comic. I truly did. But I’m more than a little lost.

I see that a lot of the heroes featured in this comic are sporting their classic costumes. Does that mean these are versions of the characters plucked from different points in time? I have a lot of questions. A lot.

Did this disco Dazzler join SHIELD? Why is Loki a woman? How exactly did Loki raise Miss America and Nico? Is this a brand new continuity for the She-Hulk-led Arcadia? Why is Dr. Doom in charge of everything? How did Sam Wilson become a mix of Captain America and Thor? Has She-Hulk met this Sheriff Dr. Strange before? Do they have their Avengers history? Why do none of the X-Men besides Dazzler have speaking parts? How does Dazzler fly? If the name of their country is Arcadia, where did Miss America get her name?

That is a LOT of confusion for a first issue.

After reading G. Willow Wilson’s eloquent and powerful blog post about this book, I wanted to love it. But instead of being able to buy in, I must confess to some confusion myself. I’m a long-time comic reader. I’m well versed in comics continuity. Heck, I’m caught up on my Marvel books.

I will admit to avoiding Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and Secret War books, though. And it sure looks to me like that willful dodging of Marvel’s summer tent pole means I’m not the targeted audience for this book. I assume that’s the case. It is pretty frustrating that the comics I’ve tried the hardest to avoid for the past few years are now dictating the direction of the entire Marvel Universe.

Wilson and her co-writer Marguerite Bennett do a wonderful job giving characterization and voice to many Marvel heroines. Jorge Molina’s art is delightful too. The megalodon antagonist is sufficiently horrific and I love the classic uniforms I mentioned above. The female leads are attractive and heroic while not being exploited. Most of all, I’m delighted to see She-Hulk leading a team of competent, powerful super-heroes. That’s what I was looking for when I picked up this book!

But instead, I’ve got a whole bunch of odd stuff about barons, Dr. Doom as a god, and the Nightwatch protecting the world from the white walkers. Oh! I mean the Shield protecting the world from zombies. I know Marvel wanted to get in on the Game of Thrones action, but this is ridiculous!

With all the press, the fantastic cover, and the concept of an all-lady Avengers team, I had really hoped that this would be a book I’d read with my daughters (who are also well-established Marvel fans.) I actually wonder if their lack of continuity knowledge might help them enjoy this book? Maybe I’ll get my 10-year-old to write a review too.

I truly hope this book and this creative team get more of a chance to show their stuff after Secret Wars ends. There is a ton of potential here, in both creative energy and in the concepts. But my absolute confusion about the very premise of the Arcadia world means this book is AVERAGE. 

Thor #8

This is almost the perfect comic. Jason Aaron’s story delivers a fantastic, logical reveal, and prefaces it with some wonderful high-octane action. Russell Dauterman has somehow become one of my favorite artists, and his portrayal of the ladies of the Marvel U taking on the Destroyer is absolutely gorgeous. I read this comic sitting in my work’s parking lot, something I haven’t done in 10 years or so, but that is how excited I was to find out the new Thor’s secret identity. And thanks to the well-choreographed action that opened the issue, I had a smile on my face the whole time.

I’m not going to give it away here, but Aaron swerved me with the obvious choice over the last few months. I read this book with my daughters (we all love it) and while my 7-year-old was with me with the obvious suspect, my 10-year-old didn’t buy it. She told me that “they wouldn’t just give it away that easily.” I will say that they were both happy about the reveal, although my younger daughter especially was immediately overcome with concern for this character. It was pretty great to get to tell her “this is a comic book, buddy, I’m sure the writer has a plan in mind.” Jason Aaron has repeatedly proven himself to be one of the best writers in comics and this is just another piece of evidence building that case.

But Russell Dauterman. I didn’t know this guy at all, and he has impressed the hell out of me. The character work on all these guest-stars is stunning. Karnilla the Norn Queen became one of my favorite characters in the span of two pages! (I thought she resembled the singer St. Vincent, anyone else get that vibe?) In any case, my younger daughter immediately declared that she wants to try to get an artist to draw Karnilla at the next comicon she attends. (It’s good to have a plan, right?)

Scarlet Witch, Spider-Woman, Captain Marvel, Lady Sif, Freyja, Angela, Karnilla, Valkyrie, and the new-to-me Hildegard. What a fantastic lineup of suspected Thors and guest stars. And throughout all of this, Aaron and Dauterman keep “regular Thor” as an integral part of the story. This has become a team-up book featuring the two Thors and I love it.

I said this was almost the perfect comic. And I meant it. It is EXCELLENT. This is Marvel Comics done right, folks.

(FYI: The perfect comic book will never exist because it would be a team-up of all my favorite b-tier Justice Leaguers and Avengers.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Justice League #40

I clearly don’t learn my lessons. I’ve been stung so many times by false hopes about the new 52 easing back on its new grim continuity, and here I go again, hoping that this time it is actually going to happen.

This issue of Justice League is the first new issue I’ve bought since issue 3 or 4. (I have been reading Geoff Johns’ series in trade paperback from the library. I’m working through a library of Forever Evil books right now.) Interestingly enough, I don’t think a single member of the Justice League appears in this title.

Instead, our focus is on Metron of the New Gods. And believe it or not, he looks pretty much like he’s supposed to look. Maybe Kevin Maguire has modernized him a tad, but there aren’t any obvious new 52-isms going on in his uniform. That alone had me smiling in the opening pages. The fact that Kevin Maguire is drawing the opening scene just made me even happier.

Through the pencils of different DC artists, we follow Metron as he recaps the origin of Mr. Miracle and Orion (by Kevin Maguire), Crisis on Infinite Earths (by Phil Jiminez), Zero Hour (by Dan Jurgens), Final Crisis (by Jerry Ordway), and Flashpoint (by Scott Kolins). And my friends, these pages are glorious. These classic artists capture the tone and look of their particular eras perfectly, sometimes in less than a page of work! Jurgens’ Zero Hour piece in particular made my day. (And I’ll also say, I wish Kolins had gotten a better assignment than the boring Flashpoint). There were long periods where I preferred DC to Marvel, so seeing these characters again was a real treat. Jason Fabok and Jim Lee provide the art for the closing chapters that tie in to the upcoming Darkseid War storyline.

The book finishes up with Metron facing down the Anti-Monitor. Metron ominously declares that “Reality cannot survive another Crisis.” Well, that gives me hope, cause I’m crossing my fingers for another one! Especially after the Anti-Monitor and Metron explicitly state that the new 52 reality has “yet to solidify.” I’m sure that statement is music to the ears of a lot of readers.

So, with my sublist lightening up for the summer, I think I’ll see this one through. I’m back on Justice League, with the hope that somehow, Geoff Johns is going to give us back some aspect of the DCU that we lost at the end of Flashpoint. The potential alone made this comic a GOOD one.

I’m a super-hero fan, right? I can’t help but be an optimist. 

(Oh, and we all think the Anti-Monitor is a future version of Metron merged with the chair, right?) 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Convergence: Justice League International #2

This is really more of a comment on all the Convergence books, although I will be talking about this one in particular.

I'm having a hard time figuring out exactly what the status quo is supposed to be for all these characters going forward. Are all the interesting versions of the DCU's cast going to stick around or are they just shuffling off into obscurity again, leaving the limelight to the collar-wearing new 52? Please don't tell me that I'm supposed to be reading the core Convergence book to understand what is going on in the bigger storyline. From what I understand, that is all about the Earth 2 series that I never read, so that ain't happening.

As for this issue; what a refreshing change. Ron Marz knows these characters. Blue Beetle and Kingdom Come Wonder Woman try to talk their way out of trouble at the start of the issue. The way heroes should. Then when things finally do break down, the KC heroes make sure not to be jerks about the whole thing. The battle of Metropolis' champions plays out sort of like a scrimmage. No one needs to get hurt.

But the reader doesn't even get to see that, because we are lucky enough to follow Blue Beetle's point of view as he teams up with the Kingdom Come version of himself. It sounds more confusing than it is, thanks to Marz's playful script and laid back attitude towards Telos' threat level.

And while Marz clearly didn't have permission to use Booster Gold, rest assured, he knows what fans of the JLI want to see.

Mike Manley's art is a bit retro, and I mean that as a good thing. His JLI look absolutely perfect. I wish I could have had a few more panels with his version of Martian Manhunter. Ice's costume seems like a neat update too. The Kingdom Come characters are a bit more hit or miss. KC Blue Beetle looks just fine, but KC Wonder Woman looks like normal Diana with a sword. I would have preferred to see the armored version we get on that spectacular cover.

This is another GOOD book where the better versions of the characters are left intact. So at least I have a little hope. Surely DC wouldn't just tease the old fans with this type of content for two months then just dump it, would they?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Convergence: Shazam #1

Aargh! It kills me that DC is putting out these books! It proves that they COULD put out a good Shazam comic if they actually wanted to. Jeff Parker, a long-time fave of mine, clearly gets the character. Billy Batson is optimistic and naïve, but still heroic. His family has his back. And best of all, the heroes want to do the right thing! What more could you want from a Captain Marvel book?

This is one of the stronger Convergence books because it barely acknowledges its part in the overall crossover. Three-quarters of this comic features a great showdown between the Marvel family and some of their greatest foes. It isn’t until the last few pages that we have to suffer through the redundant Convergence exposition.

Things get repetitive when we have to sit through Tellos’ exposition once again. As in most of these Convergence titles, the worst part of the story is the actual Convergence storyline. The battles between the different domed cities holds absolutely no interest for me. There aren’t enough pages to do justice to the antagonists, and in almost every case we have to just blindly accept that the heroes involved would give up and fight for Tellos’ amusement. I’m not buying it. Worst of all, I’m tired of reading the same dialogue over and over again!

It is crime that we are going to have to see Evan “Doc” Shaner spending time on the Red Rain vampire characters rather than Captain Marvel characters. Heck, I’d almost rather just get more sketchbook pages where we can see the brilliant ways Shaner would handle more characters if he got the chance. His clean style is retro and modern at the same time. Shazam looks perfect! Mary Marvel looks heroic and wholesome, like a kid-sister hero should. The villains, while threatening, are rocking a fantastic retro vibe that just makes them stand out.

How the heck did DC put out another EXCELLENT Shazam comic so soon after Multiversity. And what does it say about DC that the “real” version in the new 52 is so much less compelling? 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Convergence: Suicide Squad #1

Can you imagine if we had gotten this comic as an actual series? Super-crime specialist Frank Tieri writing some of the biggest villains in the DCU? Tom Mandrake indulging in his moody and striking super-hero art? Agh, it makes me sad for what might have been.

Tieri spends a long time setting things up. Too long, if I’m being honest, especially when the art leaves it unclear exactly who we’re seeing in some of the opening scenes. (I’m assuming Deadshot, but I’m not exactly sure.)

Things get repetitive when we have to sit through Tellos’ exposition once again. As in most of these Convergence titles, the worst part of the story is the actual Convergence storyline. The battles between the different domed cities holds absolutely no interest for me. There aren’t enough pages to do justice to the antagonists, and in almost every case we have to just blindly accept that the heroes involved would give up and fight for Tellos’ amusement. I’m not buying it. Worst of all, I’m tired of reading the same dialogue over and over again!

But man, once that repetitive stuff is over, can you believe this team? The real Amanda Waller, big and bad and taking names! Deadshot! Black Manta! Bane! Cyborg Superman! Poison Ivy. AND DEATHSTROKE! My goodness! That lineup would be a license to print money, at least in my opinion. With a lineup this strong, I wish we had gotten more time with the characters rather than setting things up.

Tieri really lucks out with this antagonists too. The Kingdom Come Justice League is such a rich, valuable group; I wish the characters were getting their own spotlight. Heck, it is going to be difficult to not cheer for them in the upcoming showdown. Out of all the opponents in Convergence, the Kingdom Come characters are the ones I love seeing the most.

Mandrake has done so much DC work over my DC fan years that it is great seeing him drawing these characters again. And for me, these are “classic” designs. I know people don’t dig the 90’s these days, but man, I am thrilled to see these guys again. I hope we get more Kingdom Come characters next month too.

This was a GOOD issue, but after all that set up, I’m ready for some costumed mayhem! I’m hoping the next issue is even better. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Convergence: Blue Beetle #1

I’m reading these things totally out of order now. I was going to try and review these by week, but all the Convergence books just ended up in a big pile, so now my reviews will be in whatever order I happen to read them in!

Blue Beetle is one of the more mundane entries in the Convergence mythos. Scott Lobdell’s plot checks the necessary boxes, and features the necessary characters, but at no point did I feel particularly connected to anyone in the book. Blue Beetle is one of my all-time favorites, but in this version of the character, he’s pretty dull. He could be any tech-based hero at all. Nothing he does really screams out “Blue Beetle.”

And it goes on from there. Nathaniel Adam/Captain Atom is a pretty generic government thug, only his few moments of introspection save him from actually being a bad guy. And the Question clearly has his more interesting tendencies, but we hear about them from other characters rather than from the Question himself. It’s an odd choice.

In the end, the plot is minimal too. The heroes want out, but can’t do it. And eventually the dome comes down. It goes on for more pages than in some of the other books, but there isn’t much more to it. I did enjoy the chance to see how desperate things could get for normal folks in a dome. The way people scavenged the fallen Madmen so quickly was a neat touch.

Things get repetitive when we have to sit through Tellos’ exposition once again. As in most of these Convergence titles, the worst part of the story is the actual Convergence storyline. The battles between the different domed cities holds absolutely no interest for me. There aren’t enough pages to do justice to the antagonists, and in almost every case we have to just blindly accept that the heroes involved would give up and fight for Tellos’ amusement. I’m not buying it. Worst of all, I’m tired of reading the same dialogue over and over again!

Yishan Li does a decent job with the art, but doesn’t bail out the sort of bland storytelling I described above. This may be a Charlton-centric version of these heroes, but I vastly prefer the ones with more personality and more visual identity that I got from the JLI era of DC comics.

This is an AVERAGE comic, and one of the few Convergence titles that I won’t be pining for come June. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron Movie Review

Well, I remain very impressed by Marvel Studios’ output. Even with a majority of positive reviews, I was a tad concerned about Avengers: Age of Ultron. There were a fair amount of reviewers who said it was overstuffed, full of too many characters and too much action. Worst of all, according to some critics, Age of Ultron ignored the new post-heroic status quo of Tony Stark. Remember at the end of the abysmal Iron Man 3 how Tony blew up his Iron Legion and decided to hook up rather than step up? Heaven forbid that character-destroying moment be ignored! More like “Thank Goodness!”

So with that out of the way, how is the actual movie? It’s good. It is everything we loved about Joss Whedon’s first Avengers film. It is fun and full of character. There are action moments for every single hero and villain. And most importantly, James Spader, like Tom Hiddleston before him, steals the show as the film’s villain.

I’m not a huge James Spader fan. It isn’t that I don’t like him, just that our paths have never really crossed in my extensive media consumption. But man, I’m a fan now. With his voice alone, Spade establishes the playful and malevolent outlook of the MCU’s Ultron. When he’s not on screen, I found myself anticipating the next ridiculous, great line of dialogue Ultron would have for me. A strong antagonist is SO important to a good narrative. And Joss Whedon knows it; he’s had the best two villains in the entire Marvel movie library.

The entire ensemble is excellent, as you’d expect. But Captain America is my favorite, and Chris Evans does a fantastic job in the role once again. Cap is a straight arrow, but man, he backs up his morals with actions. From the opening exchange with Iron Man all the way to Cap’s moral declaration at the close of the movie, Cap is the friggin’ man. One of my favorite things about Marvel movie Cap is the power boost he’s received. Giving him a touch of super-strength really makes his action scenes pop, especially when he takes on Ultron one on one.

I expect the top-notch moments from Thor and Iron Man, so the badass moments from Hawkeye and Black Widow are always a treat. Hawkeye gets a lot of back-story and a good rivalry with the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, while Black Widow continues to do a TON of the heavy lifting in the Marvel U. How is it that I like the Widow so much more in the movies than in the comics? Scarlett Johansson’s Widow has been an integral character in Marvel’s Phase II movies; I can’t wait to see her continue to shape the Marvel U.

All this rambling, and I’m short-changing the Hulk, the Vision, Nick Fury, and Maria Hill, who all get their moments to shine. Surprisingly enough, the Vision was my 7-year-old’s favorite character!

Did you come for the Easter eggs? Again, Marvel knows the score. We get hints of Amadeus Cho, Klaw, and Black Panther. We see Thanos again. There is even the equivalent of the “Cap’s Kooky Quartet” era of Avengers. (For those who don’t know, a bunch of the founders left the team early on in the comic run, leaving Cap, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Hawkeye to man the fort.)

So at the end of this one, we’re set up for the next big moments in Marvel movies. We’ve got teases of the upcoming split between Cap and Iron Man for Captain America 3: Civil War. The “Infinity Stones” are out there, with Thanos hot on the trail to create his Infinity Gauntlet. And we’ve got some nice seeds planted for the Black Panther. Plus, a fertile Marvel U ready for more Netflix TV shows.

All in all, I don’t see how Marvel fans can be anything but thrilled. We live in an era where comic panels come to life on the big screen, and look fantastic doing so. There is a moment in the film where Thor, Iron Man, and the Vision are all blasting Ultron with their different energy blasts. All I could think was “my goodness, as a kid I dreamed of getting something like this, and here it is. And there is more to come.”

Avengers: Age of Ultron is an EXCELLENT film. (It ranks right after Guardians and Winter Soldier.)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Aquaman #40

What are the odds that this book would get reshuffled in the upcoming Divergence relaunch? As someone who is buying only a handful of DC comics these days (Aquaman, Batman & Robin, Batman, and JL3000), I’m pretty bummed that Jeff Parker and Paul Pelletier are leaving this book.

I’ve made no secret of my distaste for the new 52. I have many reasons for disliking it; the generic stories, having to pretend that characters have never met before, and lack of consistent or interesting characterization all make the list. But Parker’s Aquaman didn’t fall victim to any of those traps.

Parker gave us Aquaman as a king of Atlantis who was experienced as a hero but was still on his hero’s journey. More importantly, but putting Arthur against new foils and obstacles, nothing felt repetitive. Throughout the Maelstrom storyline, we’ve seen Aquaman team up with other heroes and take on a variety of classic villains. In every case, the evergreen interaction that Parker presented meant that this story would fit into any continuity. I found this approach so refreshing. I don’t’ know if incoming writer Cullen Bunn will continue this or not.

One of the best parts about this run has been the bond between Aquaman and Mera. They are the ultimate butt-kicking couple, supporting each other while maintaining their own personalities. Heck, in this final chapter of Maelstrom, Mera steps up to take on the big bad in a spectacular action sequence. Through all the familial strife of the last few issues, things never seemed too dire because Aquaman had Mera at his side. Judging from the solicits, that will not be the case after Divergence.

Pelletier is one of my favorite artists. I always say I can see a John Byrne influence in his work, so it has been a pleasure seeing him draw Martian Manhunter, Gorilla Grodd, and the other characters in this arc. Atlanna is a great addition to the DCU, half Conan and half DC Atlantean. Pelletier also excels at drawing monsters, making the fantasy-tinged Maelstrom a showcase for his monster design skills.

Parker and Pelletier delivered an action packed story with many good character moments, crowd-pleasing guest stars, and the addition of Aquaman’s mother to his mythos. That’s a pretty GOOD run, folks. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


My family had a great time at C2E2 this last week. My two daughters went dressed as She-Hulk and Squirrel Girl. They got to pose for lots of pictures and sought out other costumed folks to pose with too. "She-Hulk" especially enjoyed interacting with some of her favorite comic writers. I think "Squirrel Girl" got bitten by the original sketch bug, though. I'm in for some expensive upcoming cons...

But a nice venue, good parking, and nice creators made for a great time. (And of course, packing a lunch saved about $50 bucks I was able to spend on My Little Pony sketches for the girls!)

I also got a few new pieces for my sketchbooks. Check out the collection!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Convergence: Green Lantern / Parallax

Zero Hour vs. Crisis!

Well that Parallax retcon from Geoff Johns has really colored how Hal Jordan is viewed, huh? Tony Bedard’s story places the burden of Emerald Twilight clearly on the shoulders of Parallax rather than on Hal Jordan. When the dome went up around Metropolis, Hal Jordan regained control of his body and immediately regretted his actions. All that murder and mayhem from Twilight happened while Parallax was driving.

Kyle Rayner only had the ring working for a short time before the dome came down. And Hal Jordan has been sitting in a jail since then, asking that he be made to pay for his crimes. I’m sort of torn on this one, because unlike in the JLI crossover where I’m seeing the best incarnation of those characters, I actually like the pre-52 Kyle and Hal. Their experiences shaped them into better people, and in Kyle’s case, his comic book experiences made him into one of my favorite DC characters. This book ALMOST gives me back the real Kyle Rayner, he’s just a tad off. But at least he’s a Green Lantern instead of a weirdo White Lantern.

As someone who came into the DCU after Crisis, I have absolutely no idea who the folks in Electropolis are. I guess the gal who shows up in Metropolis can manipulate the Green like Swamp Thing, but other than that, she’s a total blank for me. That’s OK, though, because it sure seems like the true antagonist in this story is going to be the newly ascendant Parallax. I think Kyle will have to rein him in as he did in the 90’s, which is fine with me. After all, I’m the 40-year-old man who has a Daryl Banks poster of Kyle fighting Parallax over my bar.

Ron Wagner’s art has always been strong, but he can sometimes get a bit sketchy for my taste. But thanks to the strong inks of Bill Reinhold, this book looks really good. Kyle is back in his 90’s era look, complete with excellent crab mask. And man, Parallax did have a nice costume, didn’t he? I sort of wish these characters were facing down more Kingdom Come characters, I think Wagner and Reinhold could do a bang-up job with Magog.

I’m pretty much over the Tellos-mandated battles at this point. As a narrative device, it is rather lazy. However, Convergence, for me, has nothing to do with the battles; it is all about getting a few more pages featuring characters I used to love.

As a comic, this is GOOD thanks to the characterization and art. The plot is POOR but I’m learning to look past that and enjoy the good parts. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Convergence: Justice League International #1

Zero Hour vs. Kingdom Come!

You know the core plot of Convergence, Tellos’ ridiculous contest of champions, is starting to grate on me when it brings down a book like this. Let me put this out there, I LOVE the JLI. The International lineup is what brought me into the DCU as a reader. Invasion was my doorway. For me, Blue Beetle, Martian Manhunter, Fire & Ice, and Booster Gold are the pillars of the DCU. So seeing them back, even for just a few pages. Heaven.

Things have changed after a year in dome for Metropolis. Blue Beetle has taken over leadership of the JLI, which now consists of Martian Manhunter, Fire, Ice, Captain Atom, and Red Tornado. Everyone but Tornado has lost their powers, leaving Beetle as the experienced hand to lead the group through their exile. In addition to his professional success, Beetle got the girl too, as it turns out that Fire is now his girlfriend too. I’m not sold on Martian Manhunter’s unease at the JLI’s methods; I like to think of him as a bit more supportive than we see here. I also couldn’t help but notice that Captain Atom pretty much does nothing. I can’t remember a single line of meaningful dialogue, and without his distinctive metal look, he’s pretty forgettable.

Can you imagine how this would work if Ron Marz could just write this book with its own story? The opening sequence where the team takes on Metallo was the sort of generic superhero mayhem that I love. Most characters got a line or two of dialogue and a great action moment or two. That’s followed up by some interesting interaction as we see how the team is making things work in the dome.

Like the other Convergence titles, things go off the rails when Tellos shows up. Not only do the Kingdom Come characters appear as simple villains, but the conflict also derails the established interactions and enjoyable status quo for the JLI. Of the two, I’m more upset seeing the fantastic Kingdom Come incarnations of these characters reduced to generic antagonists. Wonder Woman and the rest of her league deserve better. I’m still rooting for the JLI, but it should be tougher to make the choice. Marz just doesn’t have the space to make the conflict more nuanced.

Mike Manley’s art is a fantastic throwback to my beloved 90’s JLI. Blue Beetle looks wonderful, Fire and Ice look like ‘80s holdovers, just like they are supposed to. Best of all, Martian Manhunter looks imposing, wise, and powerful.

This is a GOOD comic. I’ve got to think that if these characters could benefit from a marketing push like the one that the New 52 got that people would be invested in these characters more than the generic versions in DC’s monthly output. In any case, I’ll take this while I can get it! 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Convergence: Justice League #1

DCU vs. Flashpoint!

I can sum up my interest in the older versions of DC’s heroes in one simple sentence. I’m paying $3.99 an issue for the chance to see these characters. And that is without digital codes. After all, those codes are how I justify the ridiculous $3.99 price point on Marvel’s books.

So after being so pleasantly surprised by the first couple Convergence books, I’ve decided that I’m all in. I might as well give DC some of my money when they put out a product close to what I actually want.

I was never a huge fan of James Robinson’s pre-Flashpoint run with the JLA, but I still bought it. What I enjoyed about this collection of heroes is that while most of them were serving on the League, some other characters have been shuffled about to make the story work more smoothly. Congorilla is namedropped, but not actually in the book. And Mera wasn’t in the league, but she’s practically become a member during the year the team has been trapped under the dome. So the lineup ends up as Zatanna, Supergirl, Jade, Jesse Quick, Vixen, and Mera. I’ve got to admit, that is a pretty great lineup with a fantastic spread of powers. I wouldn’t mind seeing these characters do more together, especially seeing how well they get along after their year in captivity.

A lot of the issue doesn’t involve super heroics, instead focusing on the relationships and interactions of the heroes. The moment Telos shows up to make his repetitive announcement sort of derails the book, to be honest.

I know nothing of the Flashpoint Aquaman, but he sure seems like a full-on villain. He’s not supposed to be nuanced, is he? I mean, he kidnaps Mera, tells her she’s his, and he seems to have no remorse over attacking Gotham. I don’t like that Mera is this submissive after Aquaman grabs her, but she still has time in the next issue to make up for it.

Vicente Cifuentes does a nice job with the artwork. The ladies look good in their costumes, FP Aquaman looks dangerous. There are an awful lot of belly shirts and skimpy outfits on the protagonists, but maybe that is accurate and I’m just old fashioned. Heck, judging by Arrow and the Flash on CW, I guess even scientists go to work in belly shirts!

This is a Fair to GOOD comic. Admittedly, seeing the real versions of these characters really softens my attitude towards the core plot, which is rapidly getting old. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Green Lantern v4: Gods and Monsters TPB

I sort of wish I was writing more of these Green Lantern reviews. I’d be able to do what DC does with these trades; just reprint the same content over and over! Seriously, how many trades have included the Relic storyline? At least three, I think. And when the most interesting thing about your villain is his size, that isn’t a good thing.

Writer Justin Jordan is really trapped here, with a huge chunk of this trade filled up with crossovers with the other GL titles. Only in the final few issues is Jordan able to focus on Kyle Rayner and his role as the White Lantern.

I really dig the romantic subplot that is developing here. Carol Ferris has always been Hal Jordan’s long-suffering girlfriend, but maybe she’s finally getting over that. Instead, Carol’s teaming up with Kyle has started some feelings between the two of them. It’s a neat twist and a pleasant surprise in an otherwise predictable series of crossovers.

To be honest, this is barely Kyle Rayner that has been my favorite GL for years. As a White Lantern, Kyle is able to channel all the colors of the emotional spectrum. That is integral to his new heroic role. However, it is also pretty far away from the Green Lantern for my generation thing that he had going on for so long. Taking Kyle and planting him firmly in space hurts too. I always like seeing Kyle interacting with the DCU. But now the drive for his title is to play tour guide for the new hippy Guardians of Oa. That is an OK high concept, but I don’t love it for Kyle.

That said, as a sci-fi story, the closing chapters work well. Kyle is brought in to help (and then clean up) a “perfect world.” A planet where every choice is maximized to go the right way. Unfortunately, each poor choice has been brushed off to other versions of the planet throughout the multiverse. This doesn’t last, of course, and Kyle ends up having to play peacemaker between these alternate worlds. As a sci-fi and GL story, it is very fun; something I’d expect to read about in an old, pre-Crisis GL story.

Brad Walker is the strongest of the artists involved in this collection, but I have a soft spot for his art ever since his run on Guardians of the Galaxy. He draws the most pleasing version of the White Lantern Kyle, with an amusing, bubbly version of Kyle’s mask. I will say that Carol Ferris has transitioned into her super-heroic role nicely. She looks great as Star Sapphire and her look at attitude make her the best supporting character Kyle has to interact with.

This is an AVERAGE book with some neat narrative seeds. Depending on how they pay off, I think the next trade could end up being a lot of fun. But constant crossovers and a lack of focus on the main character makes this trade pale in comparison to Kyle’s old 52 adventures.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Convergence: Speed Force #1

So I have a big question concerning this issue (and Convergence in general). Is it my problem, or DC’s problem, that I vastly prefer the Convergence-era characters to the ones available monthly? I don’t think I’m alone in this. I mean, I’m naturally drawn to reviewers whose opinions are similar to my own, but it sure seems to me that people really like seeing the “real” versions of these characters, not the watered-down new 52 folks.

Anyways, on to the actual issue. Tony Bedard has been an inconsistent creator for me. Some of his work has been absolutely brilliant, combining the best aspects of continuity and characterization into a great new creation. But some of his work (mostly new 52 GL stuff) has seemed a lot less inspired. Fortunately, Speed Force has the good Bedard working on it.

Wally West, along with his kids Jai and Iris, have been trapped in Gotham for a year. Hidden away on an alien world under a dome, Wally is having a hard time adjusting. He spends each day trying to figure out how to break free. He’s justifiably concerned that a year apart from his wife Linda will have her pretty worried. I thought it was interesting that Wally’s identity seems to be public knowledge in Gotham these days. (Although maybe that was the status quo in the old days too, I can’t remember.) Either way, I find myself pretty bummed at the idea that the old DCU is truly destroyed and this Gotham City is the last surviving remnant of that world.

My favorite thing about this book is Wally West’s attitude about the “contest” between the surviving cities. When Tellos flashes an image of the Flashpoint Hawks demolishing the Justice Riders, Wally’s first instinct is to race out to try to help them. He doesn’t even think twice. How wonderful is it to see that kind of concern for strangers in a hero again? Then, to make matters even better, we get Fastback the turtle from Captain Carrot’s Zoo Crew.

I have ZERO idea who Fastback is. I can only recognize Captain Carrot from Multiversity. But FB’s attitude about Tellos’ contest mirrors Wally’s, and my own; of COURSE there is another way. What kind of hero would just go along with a battle to the death to amuse some weird cosmic voyeur? Man, that is what DC comics are all about, heroes thinking outside the box and doing the right thing. It has been too long!

So the plot is OK, the setting is a little watered down, but these are the versions of the characters I love. Wally’s kids complicate his story a bit, but we’ve seen Wally’s journey as a hero start with childhood and continue into fatherhood. For Wally, his maturation is integrally tied to his hero’s journey. Iris and Jai are fun complications without being stupid or a disadvantage, a nice change for most kid supporting characters.

And Tom Grummet’s artwork. I always like Grummet’s stuff, but seeing the clean lines of the real Flash costume again? Seeing the costume so bright and inspiring? Man, it really makes me miss DC comics. I’m impressed that Grummet even made Fastback fit into Wally’s more grounded-Gotham. It pains me to admit, even Flashpoint Wonder Woman looked pretty dang imposing and cool on that final page.

So this is a GOOD comic. But my goodness, does it drive home how alienated I am by the current DCU. I think that will probably be the subject of a bigger write up after I read some more of these Convergence throwbacks.