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. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Flash v3: Gorilla Warfare TPB

When it comes to Flash villains, one towers above the rest. Gorilla Grodd. I haven’t read any of the New 52 Flash comics since the first trade, but when I saw Grodd on the cover of this volume, I figured I better check it out.

And, you know. It is fine. As I’ve said many times in previous reviews, I just don’t find Barry Allen to be that compelling a character. When I read him as the Flash, I’m much more interested in the costume than in anything else. Taking away his relationship with Iris sort of distracts me even further. Patty Spivot doesn’t have the same attitude and spark that motivates me to read about her.

I’m also not a huge fan of the way Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul handle the rogues. They are clearly going for some of the old Mark Waid/Geoff Johns feelings, but it just doesn’t work yet. Those older Flash stories established that the rogues were bad guys but they would do the right thing when they had to, and that they exhibited their own sense of honor. The rogues (led by Golden Glider?) do help out Keystone City against Grodd’s gorilla army, but I never quite understood exactly why they were doing it. And the new 52 costumes don’t help. Captain Cold is close enough to what he should be, but the new Heatwave looks boring.

Grodd is pretty horrific. His scenes boast some of the nicest art in the collection. The physical, brutal combat between him and Barry look fantastic. I’m not keen on the idea that Grodd is powered by the Speed Force (especially that he boosts that power by biting yellow energy capsules?). Grodd is enough of a threat on his own that adding in super-speed is a bit distracting. I prefer to leave the speed force stories to the villains that need it!

The second half of the collection has Barry helping the Trickster deal with an unfounded murder rap. I enjoyed this arc a bit more, because it helped flesh out the current supporting cast. I have absolutely no idea who those folks trapped in the speed force are, but Buccellato and Manapul do a nice job making the newly powered bozos interesting enough that I’d like to see more. I’d also kill for some caption boxes or some sort of recap. I’m not sure that the supporting cast’s identity is clearly established very often in these issues.

The art is the high point of this title. Manapul’s skill at graphic design makes for striking and innovative page layouts. He uses panel composition, sound effects, and a sense of motion to make the pages pop at crucial parts in the story. This was the greatest strength of Manapul’s run with Geoff Johns too.

So there is some potential here, but my lack of interest in Barry Allen combined with the new 52 continuity keeps this as an AVERAGE book with EXCELLENT art. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Convergence: Nightwing and Oracle #1

I’ll be honest. I’m not sure if I loved this comic so much because it was super-awesome, or if I was just so happy to see these characters acting like themselves again. Because let’s face it, those are both pretty good reasons to enjoy this comic.

Gail Simone wrote a definitive (if not THE definitive) take on Oracle back in the old DCU, so it is not surprising that she gets right back on the horse in this issue. The green-tinged narration boxes sound like the strong hero that we read about for years back in Birds of Prey. And Nightwing sounds like himself. He’s cocky, confident, and really enjoying this whole super-hero thing. As he should be. Again, that’s the character I know! While only Barbara Gordon gets an inner monologue, Simone uses Nightwing’s interactions with Starfire and Oracle to show how his personality is still intact too.

This isn’t all about looking backwards, though. As someone who doesn’t read many DC books these days, I have no understanding of the greater Convergence storyline. But it doesn’t matter. Gotham City is trapped in a dome on an alien world, but they are not alone. There are other cities trapped there too. Some weird robots (Brainiacs, I think?) are forcing the champions of these cities to battle it out to see who survives. I certainly hope that doesn’t mean that these remnants of good comics have to die, though. Even the fairly generic Hawkman and Hawkwoman of Flashpoint seem interesting when Simone is writing their dialogue.

This book packs in the DC history too. In addition to the Flashpoint Hawks, Nightwing, Oracle, and Starfire, we get cameos from Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy. With a big conflict with the Hawks brewing, I’m very hopeful that Freeze, Ivy, and Starfire join up with Nightwing to fight for Gotham.

I also really enjoyed the way Simone addressed the dwindling resources of a “fishbowl” city. The split up families and broken lives would be a real factor too.

I’ve been a fan of Jan Duursema’s art for years, so it is no surprise that I really enjoyed the pencils on this book. Even the Flashpoint Hawks really drew me in (as a Hawkman fan, it wasn’t that tough). Nightwing’s suit looks updated, but retains the classic feel that is missing in the new 52 designs. Starfire and Oracle look fantastic, attractive without showing ridiculous skin. The backgrounds are well done too, establishing the dome as an ongoing, ominous threat.

I don’t mean to just praise this GOOD comic because it isn’t a new 52 book. And yet, there is no denying that the old continuity is still part of its charm. I’d like this comic in any DC continuity, but this is Simone writing the characters she was meant to write. Enjoy it while you can, folks!

Monday, April 6, 2015

G.I. Joe vs. Transformers v1 TPB

I want you to imagine the craziest, most ridiculous comic book you’ve ever read. I have a promise for you. This book is crazier.

Tom Scioli is a lunatic, and from what I understand, he’s the driving force behind the madness in this book. John Barber’s work on Transformers is solid, but doesn’t have anything close to this level of insanity. That’s why I’m awarding Scioli the credit for this brilliant, insane masterpiece.

To be honest, so much happens in every single issue that the book barely has a plot. The action leaps from scene to scene, skipping over mundane details as if this were a Grant Morrison comic. When you read this comic, it honestly feels like the creative team has so much story to tell that they are just rushing to get it all out on the page. There simply isn’t time for deep characterization or motivations. There is always a new bit of madness waiting to be revealed after you flip the page!

Let me give you a quick summary. Unlike every other crossover between these properties, this one focuses on the Joes invading Cybertron. Utilizing the plant bomb technology from the old cartoon, the Joes have seeded Cybertron with oxygen, preparing it for an invasion. They rocket up there and quickly start swarming around the big ‘bots. Heck, one of the covers has a Joe dropping a grenade on poor Wheeljack’s head! The Transformers are having a hard time processing these little meat bugs, and Scioli addresses the insane sense of scale on every page. This is like two different stories that crossover due to proximity rather than logic.

Naturally, the Joes and Autobots start to make alliances, as do the Cobras and Decepticons. Of course, this had to happen since Destro is described as a “god of guns” at one point. And that’s not even the craziest thing in this collection.

Once you add in that Scioli is drawing this in his Kirby-like style, and this becomes the most exciting comic book on the stands.

This is an EXCELLENT comic, but only if you like concepts like the following:
  • Tunnel Rat climbing into the nose of Fortress Maximus.
  • The G.I. Joe pets forming their own combat team.
  •  The October Guard re-imagined as Halloween-based, Rob Zombie-type villains in a Jack O Lantern ship.
  • Broken Transformer parts used as jewelry on surviving robots.

Don’t pick this up if that type of ridiculous madness doesn’t appeal to you. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Justice League of America v1: The World's Most Dangerous TPB

I think I’m finally giving up on my new 52 angst.

I’m too tired to fight it when Geoff Johns’ JLA hits me over the head with “newness” in every issue. We have to pretend the team doesn’t know Chronos, the Shaggy Man, or Dr. Light. Hawkman doesn’t know Green Arrow. No one knows Star Girl. Amanda Waller put together the JLA (with Steve Trevor’s help). Yep, this isn’t your Dad’s Justice League of America. Unfortunately, I’m old enough to be your Dad, which means this isn’t my Justice League.

But as I said, I’m getting too tired to fight it. (Note that I’m reading these from the library, my days of buying DC books are long gone.) So now, I’m just happy to see Hawkman acting like a tough a-hole. I’m happy to see Catwoman slinking around the team, but fitting in quite nicely. I’m happy to see Martian Manhunter treated as an uber-powerful mainstay of his own team. And once those introductions are done, this book is perfectly fine.

The trade focuses on the debut of the Society of Super-Villains. From the striking opening sequence where an undercover JLA-er barely escapes to the big showdown with the Shaggy Man, this is classic superhero action. I especially enjoyed Catwoman’s execution about halfway through the trade. I never believed it, but it was neat seeing how Johns’ got Selina out of trouble.

Like many of DC’s current trades, I found myself very tripped up by crossovers. Whole chapters of this trade are distracted by crossovers with other titles. The Justice League Trinity War gets some development and exposure, but absolutely no wrap up. (I guess I need to read a different trade for that?) This isn’t as disjointed as the Green Lantern trades, but it isn’t easy to follow either.

The actual team make-up is surprisingly effective. I found myself really rooting for Catwoman to get her due respect from her peers. I also really liked the everyman Vibe as he tried to prove that he was actually useful. I don’t know the old Vibe character at all, so seeing this new 52 version wasn’t jarring for me at all. And of course, I absolutely love that Johns has always written Martian Manhunter the right way. J’onn is powerful, protective, and intimidating all at the same time. Jeff Lemire does a nice job in the backups maintaining that portrayal.

I’m not a David Finch fan, so his chapters didn’t knock my socks off. He draws pretty ladies and handsome fellas, but most of the characters have pinched, childlike faces that don’t quite fit the character. That said, the art told the story clearly and set out the action nicely. I preferred Doug Mahnke’s chapters, those felt and looked a lot more like what I like from my DC comics.

Reading this for free, it is perfectly FAIR. I still miss my real DCU, and I guess I always will. However, I’ll continue reading this one from the library due to the strong characterization Johns always brings to his books. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Fantastic Four v2: Original Sin TPB

What the heck. James Robinson has been hiding some core Marvel U comics in plain sight in this comic. Much like his solid work on New Invaders, this is classic Marvel U stuff here. Robinson has plumbed the depths of continuity in the DCU for decades, but he is proving equally adept at doing it in the Marvel U. I mean, this trade has the Sharon Ventura She-Thing, for heaven’s sake. I certainly never thought I’d see that character again! And she actually mentions Unlimited Class Wrestling! Mark Gruenwald would be thrilled!

The poor FF have had a rough go of it over the years. It seems they are constantly being split up, tossed out of their headquarters, and then struggling to get back together. I’m not sure who the evil mastermind is behind all of this yet, but whoever it is, they have good taste in flunkies. The Wizard, the Frightful Four, SHIELD, and even the Avengers all show up to make things miserable for the FF. Of course, Robinson uses this as a chance to show off just how powerful the Invisible Woman really is. How great is it that the character has been portrayed as so frigging powerful for the past few years?

I also really enjoy the mini-crossover Robinson’s got going on. He leverages his work in New Invaders to use the original Human Torch as a supporting character in this title. Jim Hammond has the same quiet dignity and honor in this book as in the Invaders. The Torch is in charge of looking after the Future Foundation kids while SHIELD looks at the FF’s legal standing, and Hammond’s integrity in the role is refreshing. He continually stands up to SHIELD’s bureaucracy and does the right thing. It is good stuff.

I realize I’m skipping over the “original sin” portion of the story, but frankly, that is the least interesting part of this collection. After all these years, seeing that Johnny Storm ruined one of Ben Grimm’s chances at humanity just doesn’t catch my interest anymore!

Marc Laming and Leonard Kirk are amongst the artists on this run, and they do a great job keeping the book looking like classic Marvel. Even with tweaks and updates, everyone’s costumes are immediately recognizable. The Wizard and his new Frightful Four look ready for inclusion in a Marvel Handbook.

It bums me out that sales haven’t been stellar on this run. It really is action in the Mighty Marvel Manner. Unfortunately, since I’m reading this on Marvel Unlimited, I guess I am part of the problem. It is a GOOD comic though!