Tuesday, November 29, 2011

PREVIEWS: What’s new for Wednesday, November 30, 2011?

 

WORTH A LOOK AND MAYBE A PICK-ME-UP =THESE BOOKS ON SALE 11/30/2011

DAREDEVIL #6:  Waid has brought the old magic back to this title.  One of the few Marvel books I continue to follow.

NEAR DEATH #3:  Interesting crime story following a hit-man who has a near death experience and tries to make up for all his bad deeds - - making him a marked man wanted by both the crooks and the cops.

PREVIEWS #279 Need to see what new books are coming out in February 2012.

RASL TPB VOLUME 3  I need to catch up to this title.  I’ve read the single issues that made up Volume 1 and loved it.  An art thief (well, maybe) who travels cross-dimensions. He has multiple lives, personalities, enemies, lovers, and a past connection to the famous inventor Tesla.

RED SKULL #5  Travel back to the pre-World War II days of Hitler’s ascendance to power - - get a history lesson and also learn how the Red Skull became so mean.

SPACEMAN #2 OF 9  I missed picking up Issue #1 somehow.  I wanted to read it and see if it was worth waiting for the eventual trade paperback.  So far, this has received very good press.  I may have to preview Issue #2 just to satisfy my curiosity.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #1 of 6  No, it’s not title #53 of the DC NEW 52.  It’s one of several mini-series that DC will be rolling out in the coming months.  If it’s anything like the first volume from Nick Spencer this will be worth your time to check it out.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS TPB VOLUME 1  This ran for enough issues to fill two volumes, so save some more money for the coming months.  Nick Spencer took this book and made it fresh, added enough intrigue and espionage for several Mission Impossible movies, and kept adding twists and turns to keep readers guessing throughout.  I love seeing it collected so it can be read in one sitting.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

PREVIEWS: What’s new for Wednesday, November 23, 2011?

 

Lots of books for your reading pleasure see new release tomorrow, in another week dominated by DC’s NEW 52!

ALL STAR WESTERN #3  Jonah Hex in Gotham, partnered with Dr. Arkham and in real danger from a secret society of power-hungry business villains. It’s been very good so far - - but a little different from the usual Jonah Hex fare.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE VOL 1 TPB  Good timing on DC’s part to put this out now during the increasing interest in the work of Scott Snyder on BATMAN and SWAMP THING (well deserved). This is the beginning of his vampire saga co-written with Stephen King, and definitely worth a look.

AQUAMAN #3 Continues to poke fun at itself in a light-hearted fashion. On the other hand, this is a no-nonsense bad ass Aquaman and hungry Trenchers are a bit scary.

BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #3 Love the art.  Story’s not bad either.

CALIGULA #5 of 6 Possibly the most disturbing book that David Lapham has written, certainly the most gruesome and gory.  Absolutely shocking!

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #6  You can’t find a better assortment of short stories anywhere.  Loaded with great art, great writers, and continuing fantasy sagas in small bite-sized segments.  Check it out!

DEADPOOL MAX 2 #2 The lighter side of David Lapham. Pair him up with Kyle Baker and you get a wacky, wild, and very adult-themed version of Deadpool.  I laughed at lot at Volume 1.  Expect the same chuckles here.

DEMON KNIGHTS #3 One of the books I picked up Issue #1 on a whim and stuck around for more. The Magnificent Seven, indeed!  A very pleasant surprise outside the ordinary realm of DC.

FEAR ITSELF #7.2  I said it before - - we’ve come this far so we may as well see how this plays out. I’m holding onto all the issues until it’s over so I can have a marathon reading.

THE FLASH #3 Another pleasant surprise.  Some very creative ways to illustrate how fast Barry is.

IRON MAN 2.0 #10  Only three issues left to wrap up the compelling twisted story of Palmer Addley.

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #3  I really like this pairing up of dark characters from DC, and trust Peter Milligan to keep surprising me.

KAPOW: GUINESS WORLD RECORD SPECIAL  Say no more - - a record breaker and a worthy fund raiser for charity.

RASL #12  I haven’t been following this, but I hear great things.  I did love the first 4 issues.

SCALPED VOL 8 TPB: YOU GOTTA SIN TO GET SAVED Aaron is awesome at writing a whole lot more than super-heroes.

SIXTH GUN #17  Weird dark occult western continues to be a good read.

STITCHED #1  Another Avatar variation on the undead.  Mummified corpses are re-animated to battle both NATO forces and the Taliban in the Afghan desert.  New madness from writer Garth Ennis and artist Mike Wolfer.

WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #2 I was surprised by the humorous semi-serious touch of Issue #1.   A nice surprise from the X-Men stable of titles.

UNWRITTEN VOL 4 TPB: LEVIATHAN Mike Carey is writing a break-through epic alternative comic.

See you at the comics store!

DC NEW 52: ANIMAL MAN rules the kingdom (another A+)

 

ANIMAL MAN #1 – 3  (DC) : Story by Jeff Lemire. Art & Covers by Travel Foreman.  Interior & Cover Colors by Lovern Kindzierski.  Letters by Jared K. Fletcher.

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ANIMAL MAN is about as far-removed as you can get with a super-hero title and still consider it part of the super-hero genre.  The script and art are not conventional fare, and take chances.  For these reasons, ANIMAL MAN should be one of the NEW 52 books that you pick up and give it a chance to win you over.

SO, WHAT HAPPENS IN THIS BOOK?  (If you want to avoid spoilers, scroll down to the next subheading.)  - - - 

The world of hero Buddy Baker is being turned upside down.  His youngest daughter is exhibiting powers similar to his that manifest in different ways.  The nightmares that bothered Buddy in Issue #1 are becoming reality. He learns that his origins are false, and all along he has been just a small piece of a larger puzzle - - and his four-year-old daughter Maxine will play a more important role in it than he will.  Buddy has to travel beyond the skyline to another realm that is  . . . home.  That home - - “The Red” - - is being threatened by a competing race of otherworldly beings that threaten the entire universe.

WHAT DO I LIKE?

1) I love that ANIMAL MAN occurs in Buddy Baker’s family-oriented world.  He is a family-centered hero and depends on those relationships for his confidence, security, and purpose. That family atmosphere also makes it incredibly easy for readers to empathize with the characters and to feel concern for what happens to them.  Now, the entire Baker family is embroiled in the current crisis and at risk.  There are few writers better than conveying a sense of home-spun values, family and belonging than story-teller Jeff Lemire.

2) I appreciate the darker elements of this book.  Lemire is developing an epic saga reminiscent of H. P. Lovecraft and Weird Tales with its hints of elder races in universal order versus chaos conflict. The way that Foreman illustrates these creatures helps to enhance the strange ways.

3) I also like the way Lemire uses the older Baker child, pre-teenager and non-super powered Cliff, to break the ice during moments of high tension with a humorous comment or two. As he and his mother flee from danger, one of the Hunter creatures crashes against their windshield.  Cliff yells out “holy crap!” only to get scolded by Mom (“Watch your mouth, young man!”) As their car gets away leaving the Hunter trying to re-assemble its form on the side of the road - - Cliff says “That was awesome!”  while Mom Ellen laments “I can’t believe I married a super-hero”.

4) I’m entranced by the highly imaginative art of Travel Foreman.  His images of the Red are creative and original.  He seems to have a sense for what Lemire is detailing and gets it down perfect. Whether it’s a panoramic view of this strange otherworld, the facial expressions (some great fear shots) of the characters, or the way details of the art overlap the panels make it delightfully different. 

WHAT DON’T I LIKE?

1) I have no complaints about ANIMAL MAN whatsoever.  However, as I mentioned in my review of Issue #1 - -  I don’t like that the DC editorial/marketing department ignores the amount of press that they receive here at BC Refugees.  We don’t want much – just some free reads now and then.

DO I HATE IT, DISLIKE IT, FEEL INDIFFERENT/NEUTRAL, LIKE IT, OR LOVE IT?

I have much love for this book, and I’m moving on past Issue #3. 

 

and now, one of the books  I decided not to stay with after sampling the first issue . . . . . . . . . .

BATGIRL #1  (DC):  Gail Simone, writer.  Ardian Syaf, penciller.  Vicente Cifuentes, inker.  Ulises Arreola, color. Dave Sharpe, letterer.  Adam Hughes, cover art.

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BATGIRL #1 is a good introduction to this book and the character changes that have been made.  The story is good.  The art is good.  I just wish it was great, and that I could more easily  accept the NEW 52 version of BATGIRL.  While I consider the writing skills of Gail Simone to be great, I’m still not happy enough with BATGIRL to want to come back for more.  

What’s changed is that the Joker’s bullet that creased her spine only confined her to a wheelchair for three years.  Now that she has recovered, she intends to fight crime from a tooled-up handicapped van that contains her bat-cycle.  She’s moving away from Dad (Commissioner Gordon) and sharing the rent on an apartment with a new character, a bohemian artist (that I’m not warming up to, but I’m guessing there’s more to her than is revealed so far).

I confess that I prefer Barbara Gordon as Oracle, and feel that she can play a much more important role and be a more effective component of the Batman universe in that capacity. (I guess that means that I have some understanding for the adamant fans who know how they like their Superman to be and can’t stand to see him in blue jeans. I promise not to criticize them.)  Adieu, Oracle.  You will be missed.

I also get the feeling that this book would more appropriately be called BATWOMAN because, as depicted by artist Syaf, Gordon sure doesn’t look like a teenager. She also doesn’t act like a teenager as portrayed by Simone. Hey, they are calling this book BATGIRL! 

Don’t get me wrong - - BATGIRL #1 is a good read.  There is an interesting new villain, The Mirror, who seems to have walked off the screen of FINAL DESTINATION and taken on the same responsibilities as the Grim Reaper in those films.   I’m just not coming back for more.  It’s easier to drop this book than some of the other NEW 52 titles.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Comics I Read: Marvel Top Five (ish)


I've spent a lot of time on DC's New 52 lately, and I'll probably continue to check in with them once a month, but I'm long past due to talk about my favorite Marvel titles.

My Top Five
Ultimate Spider-Man: It was the most daring, game-changing idea ever in the Ultimate universe: replace Peter Parker permanently as Spider-Man. (And no, I don't think they're ever going back. At least not with Bendis.) Instead, Brian Bendis and Sara Pichelli have created a hero for a new generation, and I'm really enjoying getting to know him. Miles Morales got his powers while Peter Parker was still alive, so Bendis wisely backs up the clock in #1 and shows us his story from the beginning. With #4, we've caught up to Peter's death and funeral -- which I wasn't mentally prepared to relive, because I actually teared up the first time -- from Miles' point of view. (The Miles pages from "Ultimate Fallout" also fit into #4.) I won't give away exactly how, but Bendis draws a direct line from Peter's inspiration to be Spider-Man to Miles. It was a gesture I really appreciated, and it made me feel like the torch has been officially passed. As I've said before, Miles is my Ultimate Spider-Man now. Peter's story is done (and ended well), and I wouldn't have it any other way. (However, there have been some appearances from Peter's supporting cast and I hope there will be more.)

Daredevil: Frankly, even if "Shadowland" had been more creatively successful than it was, Matt Murdock would have been damaged almost beyond repair. Even worse, it was kind of a mess at the end -- though I still maintain the last page redeemed it somewhat -- so how could the character be rescued? Along came Mark Waid, who decided that Matt's coping mechanism was to have a positive attitude and not deal with his feelings about what he's done, like the good Catholic he is. (Murdock, not Waid, whose religion is both unknown to me and irrelevant.) Visually, Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin's simple genius & innovative styles make this book a joy to look at and Waid's scripts show such a mastery of craft that they're a joy to read. They make it look easy, but I'm sure a lot of hard work goes into it. Without sacrificing depth -- Matt's going to have to deal with his issues someday, if for no other reason than his friends will force him to -- this book just makes me smile on a level I can't fully explain.

Avengers Academy: As much as I enjoy the other books, this is by far my favorite Avengers title. It was risky to create new characters instead of using existing Avengers or their kids, especially with "Young Avengers" alread successful, but Christos Gage created some great characters and the fact that they're new has allowed some real consequences for them. The stuff they go through during "Fear Itself" is particularly heart-wrenching, and the point one issue makes a good case for an alternate way the kids could be using their powers other than being Avengers. The cast has recently expanded to include potentially every young Marvel hero, which I was a little worried about, but #22 proved that Gage & company haven't missed a beat. The great Tom Grummett ("Superboy", "New Titans", "X-Men Forever") is coming on as regular penciller soon, which I'm really excited about. (Grummett & Gage just did interviews at Newsarama if you're interested in getting some more background on the book.)

FF: Jonathan Hickman not only understands what the FF is about, he's amped up both the family and the exploratory aspects of the book by expanding the cast (except poor Johnny) into the "Future Foundation". Hickman's the master of intricate plotting (see "Secret Warriors") and all the moving parts of the story he's been telling since before his first issue are now locking into place in an exciting and unpredictable way. The book's had a number of artists, especially since it's been double-shipping lately, but if they can't keep Steve Epting then Barry Kitson would be an excellent choice. For example, I love the relaxed body language between Reed and Sue on the panels from #10 I've included here. Marvel obviously wants us to think Johnny will be back in #600 this week, which makes me think it'll happen some other time, but apparently when the book splits in two, "Fantastic Four" will follow the adults and "FF" will follow the kids. (Which should be interesting, because Valeria Richards is one scary child.)

Amazing Spider-Man: Meanwhile, in the land where Peter Parker is still Spider-Man... The "Brand New Day" era was about building up new situations and a new cast, but when Dan Slott took over as solo writer he decided to embrace Spidey's place in the larger Marvel Universe and his rich history. It's a delicate balancing act, but Slott pulls it off well. "Spider-Island" was the most successful of the smaller-scale crossovers; much better than "Shadowland" in my opinion. (Due in no small part to artist Humberto Ramos, by the way.) The spinoff minis were also mostly high quality, though unfortunately Nick Spencer's "Cloak & Dagger" didn't sell well enough to get an ongoing series. There have been times I thought things were changing too quickly, but when I went back and thought about it those things were status quo for 8-9 months, which is around 16-18 issues or almost a year and a half if the book didn't ship twice a month. Slott's always adding new and interesting elements to Peter's life, but with new complications to go with them.. This is a good, solid, well-crafted, entertaining book, and I often go for it first when it's in the pile.

Honorable Mentions
If I'd had time to write a detailed top ten (OK, thirteen) I would have included these titles.
Moon Knight: It's Bendis & Maleev, so you know it's good, and I love that they're playing with West Coast Marvel which nobody's explored in a long time.
Journey Into Mystery: Kieron Gillen's doing a kind of Sandman-y book here, which is probably an unfair comparison, but I can't think of a better one offhand. Loki, now a kid, has to rely on subtly manipulating those around him as a means to his (now good?) ends. Gillen is great about answering reader questions on Formspring and giving background information on his blog. He says #632 is a good place to jump on, "and also a fine Christmas gift for a friend who you only want to spend a couple of quid on."
Generation Hope: Loved Gillen's #1-12, have not read James Asmus' #13 yet but I have high hopes. (No pun intended.)
Uncanny X-Men & Wolverine and the X-Men: I like the ideology of the split, and both first issues were great (but very different).
Thunderbolts: Golden Age Thunderbolts! 'Nuff said! (Almost: the art by Kev Walker and Declan Shalvey is always first-rate.)
Punisher: Rucka's taking a different tack here by not letting us inside Frank's head anymore. Great noir stuff by a master.
SHIELD: I wish I liked this as much as Hickman's "Secret Warriors", and I wish they published it more often, but it's an exciting and ambitious book and Dustin Weaver's art is phenomenal.

The Usual Suspects
These are all quite good too: Avengers (Prediction: the character Bendis just brought back in #19 makes me think a related character will not survive "Children's Crusade"), New Avengers, Captain America, Captain America & Bucky, Mighty Thor, Invincible Iron Man, Fear Itself.

RIP
Recently cancelled books I liked: Alpha Flight, X-23, Black Panther, All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes, Iron Man 2.0.

Looking Forward To
Matt Fraction & Terry Dodson's Defenders, and Ed Brubaker & Buitch Guice's new series (which I won't name because the title kinda sorta gives away a secret of "Fear Itself" and that collection isn't out until January.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

THE HORROR HUNTER: With classic monsters, retro FLESH AND BLOOD Hammer-pounds the fear !!

 

FLESH AND BLOOD, VOLUME ONE   (Monsterverse)  First Printing, September 2011  $14.99 TPB :  Written by Robert Tinnell.  Illustrated by Neil Vokes. Color by Matt Webb.  Lettering by Mike Anderson & Rick Lebo.  Cover by Dan Bereton. www.monsterverse.com

The advance solicitation in PREVIEWS for FLESH AND BLOOD and its promise of an original graphic novel that paid tribute to the classic Hammer horror films was more than enough to get my attention. 

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Next, the text introduction to FLESH      AND BLOOD, VOLUME ONE really engaged all  engines of the hype machine to red line high pressurization.  The intro, written by Tim Lucas (editor of VIDEO WATCHDOG) makes repeated reference to the Hammer legacy.  Lucas claims that FLESH AND BLOOD is “nothing less than the epic Hammer horror film that generations of fans have yearned to see . . . .”  and he calls it “the wish fulfillment of Hammer’s fan base.”   It’s a great prelude to the graphic novel itself, but left me a little apprehensive - - wondering how FLESH AND BLOOD could possibly measure up to those expectations. 

 

FLESH AND BLOOD VOLUME ONE does not disappoint.  Page after page, panel after panel, the script and art deliver on the promises and praise of the introduction.  And it’s only just beginning.  After an exhausting and chilling start, there are three more volumes to follow.  This is an epic saga, and I wonder in delight at what other terrifying treasures are yet to be uncovered. 

There is a film-like pacing throughout which only enhances the memories of those classic Hammer movies of the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Reading FLESH AND BLOOD is similar to holding the storyboards in your hand for a new Hammer filmic fear fest.  Viewing the gorgeous art of Neil Vokes is almost like looking at animation cels.  However, they are not simplistic in appearance and the the work is more detailed.  These are not cartoon animation cels - - more like adult animation cels where the images are more horrifying, bloody, and also erotic. Both Hammer Studio’s bloody tendencies as well as its suggestively sexual open-bodice female characters are represented and recreated here.

Robert Tinnell’s script pays homage to the genre and utilizes characters and situations to the maximum in what Lucas referred to in his introduction as “the epic juncture of Hammer’s great horror franchises in one dramatic, compelling . . . “monster rally.”  You will recognize many of the classic characters as well as names of places.  If you are a fan of Hammer Studios you’ll also recall the names of characters matching those of actors, directors and producers in Hammer history.   SPOILER ALERT - - PROCEED WITH CAUTION!! The story opens as one of the oldest vampires, Carmilla, is caught in the act and killed, but perhaps not before she has influenced her victim - - Laura Ward Baker.  The difficulty of the estate and its manservants to dispatch of Carmilla convinces the lord of the manor, Lawrence Ward Baker, to take further measures to protect his family.  He is persuaded to form an armed company to rid the land of all existing vampires by a sinister and dark appearing friend, only identified as The General.  The General is a Styrian, “a different breed from you English.  There’s something primitive, elemental in our nature - - nearly as black as that of the vampire.  . . . . When we visit revenge on an enemy we are not content with his death.  No . . . we are driven to exterminate his family.  His wife.  His children.  Burn his home.  Wipe out every trace of his existence.”

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Ward Baker next recruits Doctor Victor Frankenstein, whom he rescues from a mental institution along with the young doctor whose patient Frankenstein was.  This doctor turns out to be Abraham Van Helsing., who immediately becomes entranced by the beauty of Laura Ward Baker.   The company then capture another female vampire for Dr. Frankenstein to experiment on in hopes of developing a serum or potion to destroy all vampires.    Lastly, Ward Baker enlists the assistance of Horst, his brother-in-law who has a reputation for fighting the forces of darkness.  Horst has just recently defeated a werewolf but not before suffering a wound that forces him to have his manservant chain him on nights when the moon is full. 

Not to be upstaged, Erzebet, the sister of the dead Carmilla, requests the assistance of the king vampire Vlad/Dracula to stop Ward Baker before they get too far along.  An army of vampires attacks the monastery where their forces are encamped during the conclusion of Volume One. 

The artwork is incredible and the colors by Matt Webb are vivid.  There is much use of red and orange / blue and gray to outstanding effect =  warmth and cold, fire and ice, light and dark, passion and frigidity.  Some of the images seem as if viewed through eyes glazed over by blood.  As drawn by Vokes, Dr. Frankenstein resembles actor Peter Cushing.  Dracula looks like actor Christopher Lee.  Carmilla reminds me of actress Ingrid Pitt. And Horst reminds me of the actor who portrayed Kronos in the classic CAPTAIN KRONOS, VAMPIRE HUNTER. 

There is a great but short reference article in the back of the book with further information on some of the characters.  This is followed by a second story, to be serialized in future volumes.  “Operation Satan”  is also very short, just three pages to set the stage for a story that is described as homage to another classic film series – The Quatermass Trilogy.  It’s also written by Robert Tinnell with black-and-white art by Bob Hall, tones by Kerry Gammill, and lettering by Rick Lebo.

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FLESH AND BLOOD VOLUME ONE is an absolute horror gem, and another addition to my long box of “keeper” titles.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

DC NEW 52 - - - ACTION COMICS makes the A+ list

 

ACTION COMICS #1 – 3  (DC):  Grant Morrison, writer.   Rags Morales, penciller #1.   Rags Morales & Brent Anderson, pencillers #2.   Rags Morales & Gene Ha, pencillers #3.   Rick Bryant, inker#1.   Rick Bryant & Brent Anderson, inkers #2.  Rick Bryant & Gene Ha, inkers #3.   Brad Anderson, colorist #1 , 2.  Brad Anderson & Art Lyons, colorists #3.   Patrick Brosseau, letterer.   Rags Morales & Brad Anderson, covers.

Unpredictable!  The thing I enjoy the most about the new ACTION COMICS is that I cannot figure out where this is going.  I just know to strap on, as I am coming along for the ride with no expectations except to be thoroughly entertained.

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The current residence of Superman, Metropolis, is re-imagined as the city of tomorrow (as it’s often been described) except that this futuristic location is far from being complete. Amongst all the newly restored areas of the city with modernistic skyscrapers and architecture can be found neighborhoods in decline and in need of repair/attention.  This bright and shiny city is rusting and tarnished at its edges, both externally and internally. 

This Superman seems outwardly confident and aggressive (to the point of arrogance) but I sense it’s part fa├žade.  There are little hints throughout the story (especially in the scenes with alter ego Clark Kent) that Superman seems not so sure of himself or his direction.  I prefer a little non-perfection in my heroes.  Why shouldn’t Superman suffer a little anxiety now and then? 

I haven’t been this interested in a Superman title since the 1980’s when writer/artist John Byrne re-shaped the style and tone of Superman, putting a different spin on events in the classic S: THE MAN OF STEEL mini-series and the KANDOR limited series.  Unfortunately, once he was rewarded with a regular monthly title, he seemed to forget about those changes and went ahead with typical fare.

SO, WHAT HAPPENS IN ACTION COMICS? 

SPOILER ALERT!:  Skip this section and move onto the next area if you have not read these books yet.

Superman exists to right wrongs, but on more of an everyday city level versus the global and cosmic sagas we’ve been accustomed to reading.   The people love him (initially).  The government and military resent and fear him. An opportunistic General Sam Lane  (father to Lois) wants to steal the secrets of his power in order to develop “steel soldiers”.  Lex Luthor is a consultant to the military, intent on capturing Superman, uncovering his weaknesses and exposing him as an alien.

Superman rescues the inhabitants/squatters inside a building being demolished by a wrecking ball.  We learn that Clark Kent is a highly respected investigative reporter (for the Daily Star)  with a mission similar to Superman’s – to expose crime and corruption.   Superman stops a runaway commuter train from crashing by putting himself directly in front of it.

Luthor has an unknown outside source feeding him information.  He tries out the word “Krypton” on Superman and hears back “Noble Gas . . . Number 36.”  Ha!  There is also an anonymous source feeding tips to reporter Clark Kent, and a mysterious cloaked figure who warns Kent a “ghost” is watching as well as a white dog.

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Luthor tries various methods of torture to uncover Ka-El’s secrets to no avail.  He continues to correct others and refers to Superman as “It”.  Dr. Irons objects to the torture and resigns his post as lead scientist on the “steel solider” project in protest.  Although Sergeant Frank Corben wants to rekindle his prior relationship with Lois Lane and thinks of volunteering for the project after he sees how affectionately Lois refers to the Man Of Steel.  Luthor’s take on torture is that the laws only apply to human beings, and wants to dissect his prisoner to learn how to “build warrior gods.”  Superman escapes and has a brief telepathic conversation with the rocket that brought him to Earth, promising to return for it. 

Issue #3 opens with a bit of history:  the last days of planet Krypton and the city of Kandor.  A new spin by Morrison has an “alien consciousness” invading the communications network and machinery. The presence also assimilates all data and seeks to preserve artifacts via its’ “terminauts.”  Clark Kent is equally persecuted as police frequently search his apartment for any type of evidence they can use against him to stop his investigation into corruption.  The exchange between Clark and Inspector Casey is priceless, as each questions the other’s morals and motives.  The landlady, Mrs. N., finds some evidence the police overlooked.

The local television station and The Daily Planet (all owned by Glenmorgan) launches a media assault on Superman and turns public opinion against him.  That was easy.  I’m reminded of how media and political parties are currently putting spins on matters to make anything the other side comes up with to appear negative and unpopular.  (And I’m not choosing sides here - - all are guilty.  Why can’t they work together?) 

The Factory For Tomorrow, another Glenmorgan project set up to manufacture new subway cars,  has apparently been infested and its’ database is being copied by the Terminauts.  The “Colony Of The Collectors Of Worlds” has also infiltrated the Steel Soldier project just as the first prototype becomes animated, perhaps without it’s human host.  Luther correctly identifies his informant and immediately seeks to cover his butt by making another bargain. 

There are tons of overlapping events in the first three issues of ACTION, which definitely lives up to its title.  What else could you want?

WHAT DID I LIKE?

1) I like this version of Superman, more of a true champion of the people.  The blue jeans and work boots help compliment that image - - as if he just took some time off from toiling in the wheat fields to come and save/help protect the common man.  In the opening scenes he exposes a corrupt construction executive and forces a confession:  “You know the deal, Metropolis.  Treat people right or expect a visit from me.” 

2) I appreciate that Superman is not 100% invulnerable or unbreakable.  He is strong but he can still feel pain.  He receives plenty of aches from tank bombardment, impact with a train, and various high pressure forms of torture during Luther’s interrogation of him. 

3)  I like the little gnome-ish, weasel-like businessman talking to Mr. Glenmorgan on page 1.  (Just call him “Teetotal” until we learn his real name.)   I sense there is something more to him than is revealed here.  He manages to sneak away during Superman’s intrusion, and seems to have stolen Mr. Glenmorgan’s monogrammed tie!

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4) The art by Morales and companions is outstanding.  I haven’t seen this consistency and level of quality from him in some time.  Some of my favorite scenes include the two-page stand-off where Superman stands on the edge of a balcony ledge  just before he decides to drop to the streets below; the caption-less panels where the runaway train runs off the rails; and the double-page spread featuring the collapse of Kandor.  (A special shout-out to the colors/ink team for some super-fine work.)

5)  I also like that Lex Luthor is no longer the epitome of perfection, physically and mentally.  He looks a little paunchy and overweight.  The famous arrogance and superiority are still there but he slips from time to time and reveals his frustration, impatience, confusion, and self-doubt in certain moments.

6) I like that Superman isn’t 100% handsome and attractive.  In fact, he can look downright frightening and otherworldly, especially when his eyes emit heat vision, microwaves, or other forms of energy.

7) I like that Grant Morrison seems to be at the top of his game in Issue #1.  He relays so much information and background on Superman/Clark Kent without once interrupting the flow of the story. It just blends right in.  A  masterful job.

8) There are respectful nods throughout to the legend and legacy of Superman and his creators.  I especially like the cover to Issue #1, as the numbers on the police cars correspond to the year in which ACTION COMICS was first published:  19 + 38. 

9) The backup features beginning in Issue #2 have been great!  Behind the scenes with the creators. Insights into the other Superman titles at DC.  And, beginning with Issue #4, a back-up story that directly links to the main storyline.  What’s not to like? 

WHAT DIDN’T I LIKE?

1) The disconnect with the other titles featuring Superman, which I believe will be corrected/adjusted as the storyline progresses, but makes for some confusion right now.  The Superman in JUSTICE LEAGUE doesn’t act or look like the Superman in ACTION COMICS.  Right off the bat, the costumes are different.  The back-story in Issue #3 explains that the events in the new SUPERMAN book occur five years after what’s going on in ACTION COMICS.  Ok, that satisfies me a little bit.  But the first issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE says their events occur five years before current times.   So, Superman should still have the jeans and work boots, correct?   I’m thinking that JUSTICE LEAGUE occurs five years before current DC books and that means ACTION COMICS might occur ten years before current times.   A minor point, but a little disconcerting.  ( I haven’t read the other Superman-linked books so I’m not aware if things are explained any further there.)

LOVE IT? LIKE IT? INDIFFERENT?  DISLIKE IT?  HATE IT? 

I love this book!

CORRECTION: I previously wrote that I had sampled 20 of the DC NEW 52 titles. It’s actually 21 books.  I had already forgotten about DETECTIVE COMICS by then. So, why am I also not picking up DETECTIVE COMICS?  While story and art are good, I just get the sense that I’ve been here before.  It doesn’t seem novel enough, in spite of the surprise at the end of Issue #1.  That’s where I stopped.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

PREVIEWS: What’s new for Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lots of good books this week.  Here’s some of the highlights I consider worth your time  . . . .

BATMAN #3 (DC) - - - Loved the first two issues.  Time to pick up Issue #3 of my 3-issue trial.  I think this one is staying in my monthly rotation.

BLUE ESTATE #7 (IMAGE) - - - Quirky, pulp fiction set in urban Los Angeles with all the seedy, depraved, conflicted, manipulative and neurotic characters you could hope for in a single cast.  Great escapism. Mature readers only.

FEAR ITSELF #7.3 (MARVEL) - - - You’ve come this far.  Why not see it through to the after-conclusions?

HAPPINESS IS A WARM BLANKET, CHARLIE BROWN Trade Paperback  (BOOM!) - - - - An original graphic novel based on the beloved characters.  I’ve seen a preview of this in PEANUTS #0 and it’s faithful to the Schultz legacy.  And delightful. 

HAWKEN #1 of 6 (IDW) - - -  Can’t wait to see the latest dark Western saga from Tim Truman.  A collaboration with his son.

iZOMBIE #19 (DC) - - - - Lot of dark fun with the undead and assorted monsters courtesy of writer Chris Roberson and artist Mike Allred.  You can jump in anytime and pick up on the story.  If you do, you’ll come back for more.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #3 (DC) - - - This will be the capper issue that determines if I continue with this series. Issue #1 had great art but a disappointing script.  The story in Issue #2 was much better and the art took it to another level.

KEY OF Z  #2 of 4 (BOOM!) :  I turned out to be right about what effect Ewing’s little musical artifact would have on the zombies.  This issue turns into a “heard it before” tale of two rival gangs jockeying for territory, etc reminiscent of  THE WARRIORS and the ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK / ESCAPE FROM L.A. films.  However, the art by newcomer Carlos Magno is worth your attention. 

PLANET OF THE APES #8  (BOOM!) - - - Second story arc ends this issue, but the conflict is far from over. If you have been following this series you will go crazy for the art in the battle scenes this issue. It’s a damn shame that human leader Sullivan and apes leader Alaya have grown so far apart since their days as students together.  In order to avoid a blood bath, Sullivan negotiates and puts her trust in Alaya. Let’s hope she doesn’t regret it. 

SCALPED VOLUME 8:  YOU GOTTA SIN TO GET SAVED Trade Paperback  (DC) - - -  One of the best alternative (non-superhero) continuing stories you can buy for your hard-earned dollar.  I’m several volumes behind,  but I trust scripter Aaron has been maintaining the high level of quality on this title.

WONDER WOMAN #3  (DC) - - - One of the NEW 52 books I picked up on a whim.  I feel I’ll be picking this one up for months to come.  I like the way this is being handled, combining the mythic with the contemporary, and the darker themes under the surface.

See you at the local comic shop!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Books I Read: Dungeons & Dragons

I haven't read a D&D comic in ages, but the writer of IDW's new series caught my attention, so I thought I'd try it and also see how their reprints of previous series held up by today's standards.

Dungeons & Dragons: Shadowplague HC: I was attracted to this because of writer John Rogers, who co-created the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle. He's also the writer/producer of the "Global Frequency" pilot that never aired, and of TNT's current heist drama "Leverage". I was thinking "Blue Beetle" would turn out to be the key resume item here, but actually it's "Leverage". Rogers' characters have great personality and banter like the ones on his TV show, and that's what makes this my favorite D&D comic ever but also a darn fine series in its own right with universal appeal. Honestly, I could ramble on, but the best endorsement I can give is that I just went back to flip through the book to pull a couple of quotes for this piece and I wound up rereading the entire volume. The only flaw is that the book ends on a cliffhanger, but the next volume will be out any day now, so lucky you! Art is by the great Andrea Di Vito, of Crossgen's "Brath" and Marvel's "Annihilation" & "Nova". The hardcover is cleverly produced at the exact dimensions of a D&D game book, which means room for playable versions of the story in the back for current adventurers and nicely oversized art for the rest of us.


Dungeons & Dragons Classics Vol. 1 TPB: If memory serves, these comics published by DC in the 1980's are the first standalone D&D comic stories outside of "Dragon" magazine. The first story arc, while fun, is disappointingly unimaginative coming from Michael Fleisher, who wrote Jonah Hex through the 70's & 80's and wrote all those bizarre 70's Spectre stories where he cut people in half with giant scissors and such. (The Spectre, that is, not Fleisher, I hasten to say lest I get sued.) I liked the characters and how they're brought together by an incognito goddess, but their quest itself is not that interesting. The second arc, by Blue Devil and Amethyst co-creator Dan Mishkin, is much better. Oddly, two of the main characters -- the centaur and the paladin -- are just gone after the first arc with no explanation whatsoever. These are good stories, albeit aimed at a younger audience than modern comics, but with the names involved I was hoping they'd be great. The art, however, by comics legend Jan Duursema ("Arion", "Arak", "X-Factor" and apparently the basis for a Star Wars character), is outstanding. There's some game material included, but I assume it'd have to be converted somehow since there have been several major D&D revisions since these comics were published.


Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms Classics Vol. 1 TPB: Oh, look, it's the "missing" paladin from the other book, starring in his own series! That would have been worth mentioning in the other story, you would think. (To be fair, there may have been some cross-promotion in the original issues that IDW edited out, the same way they've carefully removed the DC logo from all the covers.) Anyway, these stories are written by veteran D&D game designer Jeff Grubb. As such, they're a little more complex, like a good campaign with lots of different factions having different agendas, and with the imagination of a module designer who isn't used to being concerned about some poor schlub trying to draw his ideas. (There's a valley full of dragons...) Fortunately, the art is early work from Rags Morales, artist of "Identity Crisis" and most recently Action Comics #3, who can pretty much handle anything thrown at him. The "Forgotten Realms" setting also gives D&D fans a chance to see some of their favorite characters, like the powerful wizard Elminster, in the story. I prefer the cast of characters in this book, including the struggling with faith paladin, an iron golem, and a wizard who thinks he's on the same level with Elminster and isn't, even though Grubb is sometimes not too subtle about the game elements. ("Cure Light Wounds!", says the paladin a lot.).

Overall, I recommend the John Rogers IDW series for everyone -- it's that good -- and the Classics reprints for kids, and for adults who are into D&D or fantasy literature. (Though "Game of Thrones" they ain't, obviously.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

DC NEW 52: THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

It’s been awhile since I’ve commented on the DC NEW 52 books, but not for lack of interest. There are plenty of places to read reviews of the new titles, including right here where Jeff has been doing a fine job of keeping pace - - and because of that I haven’t felt a sense of urgency.  But I remain interested, intrigued, and delighted by the results so far and have to give DC an A grade for effort.  It’s a formidable task they set before themselves and they’re pulling it off for the most part.  Book orders are up.  There is renewed interest in these classic characters.  Some older readers are returning and even brand new faces are showing up in comics stores and becoming regulars who return for more.  For me, what DC has done is understand an essential component of why we follow comic books in the first place  - - - the sense of wonder, the escapism, the simple joy of reading.  They have grasped it at the very root, and are tapping the vein. 

However, as far as being able to partake of all this nectar that is being offered to us  (a whopping 52 new titles)  many of us do not have unlimited funds (or stomach) available.  That is where the careful selection process has to occur - - - and that is where comics bloggers like myself and Jeff can perform a valuable service by helping to point out the books most worthy of your attention.    It would be absolutely amazing if all 52 of these new titles continued into the following year and beyond.  I expect several of them will be cancelled due to low sales numbers and/or deserved lack of interest.   It would be an absolute shame if a worthy book was canceled simply because it was just part of this massive flood of new titles and was simply over-looked. 

I’ve got to go back more than 10 years to a point where I previously devoted this high a percentage of my monthly comics budget to super-hero titles.  I’ve earned somewhat of a reputation here for focusing on the “alternative” titles or genres of comics and not so much on the super-hero books.  There’s a valid reason for that = what I write about directly reflects my current comics tastes and preferences.  I’ve become somewhat jaded after reading comics for five decades and it takes a really unique direction or writing so good that I just can’t ignore it to get me to follow a super-hero book every month.  It’s still too early to tell - - but DC may get me to make more room for them in my monthly budget. 

DC was very wise to put out the free DC COMICS THE NEW 52 #1 sampler back in August, as it served to announce all the new titles and also introduce the writer/artist teams for each book.  It just enhanced the excitement and started the wave of fan buzz churning.  For me, it helped to narrow down my initial selections, and I wrote about those decisions here.

I decided to follow 9 books and commit to each title for a 3 issue trial.  My selection was based on two considerations:  1) Did I think this was a book that seemed to have a greater chance of surviving beyond Year One? and,  2) Was it a book that appealed to my interests either because of  the concept, characters, and writer and/or artist?

I choose these nine books for my 3 issue commitment:  ACTION COMICS, ANIMAL MAN, AQUAMAN, BATMAN, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT,  BATMAN AND ROBIN,  BATWOMAN, FRANKENSTEIN – AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E., and JUSTICE LEAGUE.

Of course, that didn’t stop me from picking up and sampling some of the other offerings, and as a result of that I decided to make an additional 3 issue commitment to these titles as well:  ALL STAR WESTERN,  FLASH,  JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK,  MEN OF WAR,  SWAMP THING, and WONDER WOMAN. 

In summary, I read 20 total #1 issues of the DC NEW 52  (38.5%) and increased my initial list from 9 books to 15 books that I plan to follow for 3 issues before deciding thumbs up or thumbs down.

I’ve already reviewed many of those first issues here, and from this point will hold off until I’ve finished all three issues.  I’m also planning to write about those books that I tried and decided to abandon. I won’t rant about them.  I’ll just be as kind as possible and explain why they don’t work for me.  My goal is to draw attention to what I think deserves it and hopefully help selective readers make informed choices.    I sure hope you are having as much fun with the DC NEW 52 as I am.

NEXT:  ACTION COMICS  #1 – 3 plus one of my cast-offs.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Green Lantern: The Animated Series

Bruce Timm's new "Green Lantern" animated series premiered Friday night on Cartoon Network, and exceeded all my expectations.

I was pretty worried about the decision to computer animate this series. Previous attempts like MTV's "Spider-Man" & Nicktoons' "Iron Man" have had good action sequences but really stiff characters the rest of the time. But no worries: the CGI and Bruce Timm's signature animation style work together almost perfectly. The characters' movements are smooth, and Timm's stylized designs allow the faces to show a wide range of emotions with a minimum of movement. (There's a bit where test pilot Hal sees the Guardians' experimental super-spacecraft for the first time and his facial expression is priceless.) The lack of black lines also makes the ring energy effects look spectacular.

I'm a little bit in awe of Josh Keaton, who did a great job as teenage Peter Parker in "Spectacular Spider-Man" and yet somehow does a completely different, but equally great voice as adult Hal Jordan. (Hilariously, he also gets to do Hal imitating Ganthet for a few seconds.) Kevin Michael Richardson, who's also currently playing Martian Manhunter on "Young Justice", does a great Kilowog ("I make hammers.") and Tom Kenny, the voice of Spongebob Squarepants (!) is terrific as Red Lantern Zilius Zox. Apparently it costs a lot of money to render new characters in CGI, so expect to see a smaller cast here than in "Young Justice" or "Justice League Unlimited".

The story setup cleverly turns Hal & Kilowog into underdogs, far away from their 3598 fellow officers and their all-powerful masters. At first, the show seems like a light action-adventure, but slowly turns up the heat into something as deep and serious as anything "Batman: The Animated Series" or "Justice League" ever did. This show might not be at that level yet, but it's astonishingly close. When it returns with new episodes early next year I'll bet it will reach the same height or greater than Timm's other classic series.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

PREVIEWS: What’s new for Wednesday, November 09, 2011?

DECISION 2012: BARACK OBAMA  (BOOM!)  Writer:  not credited.  Artist: Damian Couceiro.  Colorist: Digikore Studios.  Letters: Steve Wands.  Covers:  Jeffrey Spokes.

The first presidential primary occurs later this month in the state of Iowa.  On the Democratic side of the slate Barack Obama, the incumbent President Of The United States, will likely be the only choice to make.  However, on the opposing side there will be multiple choices and the beginning of the process of elimination that will bring us to the most logical candidate to represent the Republican party when the 2012 Presidential race really heats up.

D2012_Obama

I like what BOOM! Studios has done to help create awareness of the many candidates, biographies in comics, comics in general, and BOOM! in particular.  Back in September when PREVIEWS was soliciting comics orders for November 2011 BOOM announced that they were initiating the first comics political straw poll to coincide with the Iowa primary.  A comic book  biography would be created and made available to order for every single known candidate for President at that time.   BOOM would tally the pre-order results and declare an official winner of the straw poll - - the single book with the most advance orders.

I’m sure they have been aware of the winning candidate for some time now, and are probably waiting for the appropriate moment to make their announcement.  In the meantime, the first of these books debuts this month and is worth your attention.  If all the books in this series that follow are as well done as DECISION 2012: BARACK OBAMA then BOOM! has completed a very worthwhile service. . . . . . Why? . . . . . Glad you asked!

This book presents a very complete and concise capsule summary of everything you would want to know about the candidate Barack Obama.  The storyline covers his upbringing, background, education, job and service history and also summarizes his political career – touching on the key points of his time in the Senate and also the Oval Office.  What I like best is that all the material is presented factually and objectively, without any editorializing or endorsements.  BOOM! gives you some facts and information.  You are free to make your own decisions. 

Perhaps beyond the simple fun of seeing which title had the largest pre-orders in the straw poll, BOOM! is also providing a secondary service - - - they are providing a nice outline of the candidates to Comic Nation in the format that Comic Nation prefers.  It’s also a very friendly format for younger readers to learn as well as a way for younger voters to get involved and learn more as we approach the critical election days of November 2012.

Obviously, since these books were put together many months ago, we will see some titles about some who have either already dropped out of the race or have yet to declare their candidacy.  That’s a small price to pay in order to have these books come out at exactly the right time.  Still to come are DECISION 2012 issues featuring Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Jon Huntsman,  Herman Cain,  Mitt Romney, and Rick Perry.   

OTHER BOOKS WORTH A LOOK ON 11/09/2011 =  BATMAN & ROBIN #3;   BATWOMAN #3;   FLESH & BLOOD VOLUME 1 TPB;   FRANKENSTEIN: AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. #3;  HP LOVECRAFT: DUNWICH HORROR #2 of 4;  HELLRAISER #7;  JACK AVARICE IS THE COURIER #2 of 5;  THE OCCULTIST #1 of 3;  WULF #4.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

PREVIEWS: What’s new for Wednesday, November 2, 2011?

While DC’s NEW 52 seems to be grabbing the spotlight and commanding much attention, this looks to be a BOOMing week for new releases.  Read on . . . . . . . . . .

7  WARRIORS #1 of 3  (BOOM!)  Written by Michael Le Galli.  Art by Francis Manapul.  Colors: Christelle Moulart.  Letters: Deron Bennett.  Translation: Edward Gauvin.  Covers: Francis Manapul. (Original European publication 2008)

Thanks to his innovative art style on the NEW 52 FLASH, there is a lot of  current interest in Francis Manapul.  SEVEN  WARRIORS offers another look for Manapul in a different genre (semi-historical epic/myth) and provides followers of his dynamic art style a chance to see how he does with a smaller, multi-panel format as well as make notes on how much he has progressed since this work.

7warriors_01

7 WARRIORS opens up with a nicely illustrated, semi-subdued two-page lovemaking scene (without captions)  that lets us know that at least one of these partners is royalty, judging by the elaborate bedchamber.  Cut to page three, and we learn that there is trouble in the kingdom of N’nas Amon.  The capital, including the mountain-top palace of Queen Tsin’Inan, is under siege by the combined armies of Persia and Byzantium, following their massacre of the Queen’s armies.

These events force the Queen to hire mercenaries to protect the town. Those soldiers-for-hire include Cretans, Thracians, Vandals and Sarmatians.  It’s with this last group, a race of Amazonian warrior-women, that the Queen appoints a separate band to aid Prince Aksamon in fleeing the city to safety at a hidden location.

The tunnels they must use to escape the city are not without pitfalls, as their are hidden traps.  There is a lot of detail in the small panels and the story reads like an Indiana Jones adventure from this point. Not all of the warriors escape the traps.  Unfortunately, one of the fallen was a “Saudara” (sister-wife) and this does not sit well with her surviving partner who seems to grow bitter and resentful. It’s a nice beginning to the three-issue  mini-series.

BETRAYAL OF THE PLANET OF THE APES  #1 of 4  (BOOM!)  Written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman.  Art by Gabriel Hardmon.  Colorist:  Jordie Bellaire. Letterer:  Ed Dukeshire.

POTA_Betrayal_01_CVA      POTA_Betrayal_01_CVB

Fresh off the popularity of the recent PLANET OF THE APES series, BOOM! adds this new mini-series.  While this is not even close to the level of intricate plots and outstanding artwork of that series, BETRAYAL OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is a very interesting addition to the APES body of work, and is much better than the APES comics being produced in the prior three decades.  If your appetite for more primate fare has grown as a result of the great new PLANET OF THE APES series, then this tale will more than satisfy.

BETRAYAL OF THE PLANET OF THE APES takes place 20 years before the events of the first movie (with astronaut Taylor) and begins with the trial of a respected orangutan, brought to court for the heresy of teaching a human to speak the language.   He is absolved of guilt, but this does not sit well with a faction of militant gorillas, who seek to poison the teacher, Doctor Cato, and blame it on his human slave.  This backfires as the slave escapes and the conspiracy is uncovered by the respected General Aleron, now a  citizen and defense attorney for Cato. 

As a counter-measure the disgruntled opponents of peaceful co-existence with humans seek to uncover some dirty laundry in Aleron’s past and have him confined to jail under suspicion of murder 15 years previously.  As with the best of the APES tales and movies, there are many parallels and similarities to modern society.  A good read is in store here.  

MARKSMEN #4 of 6  (Image/Benaroya)  Script: David Baxter.  Art: Javier Arandia, Garry Leach & Jessica Kholine.  Cover: Tomm Coker and Daniel Freedman.

This is the all-out battle issue, and it’s awesome to watch it unfold.  If you enjoy G.I. JOE and similar books, love military combat with high-tech gadgets = especially armored vehicles in battle - - then this is the issue of MARKSMEN that you’ll want to pick up.  The battle is epic in scale and beautifully detailed by the art team.

Marksmen#4_Cover

Drake, Hercules, Orion, Ulysses, Athena and other members of the Marksmen set out to free key scientist Shannon Heston, who was abducted by the minions of  Duke last issue.  In order to reach her, they have to fight their way to the enormous mobile command center of the enemy and somehow find a way inside.  While Duke works at interrogating Heston by torture, she learns there is much more to this seemingly Christian leader  (she calls him “ a professed no-tech Luddite”) than his public image might indicate. He’s well-schooled in biochemistry and also employs the tools of science/high tech, including a massive electro-magnetic pulse that disables the Marksmen tech, especially the smart-phones-in-their-sunglasses that they depend on for surveillance, etc.

A surprising double-agent working inside the command center helps make the rescuers succeed in their mission and get away.  The New San Diego command center has to rely on a faulty death-ray to ensure their troops succeed, and the resulting misfire has disastrous results. (It seems only appropriate that the deployment officer inside the command center is code-named Shiva.)

The art in Issue #4 is damn near perfect in every detail, especially the use of shading, depth, overhead and angular views, and body language close-ups.  Dynamic is the word.  I can find no flaws.  There is so much action in this issue that it could easily seem like writer Baxter simply wrote a brief outline of what he wanted to have happen – and let the art team free-style and “go to town” with it.  However, after watching a brief You Tube interview with Baxter I learned that he has a “strong arts background” and loves working in comics (previously worked as a screenwriter) since he can direct the action.  That may be why the story has such a fluid flow and actual events progress as the artwork tells the story.

By the way, there’s also a lot of revealing background and explanation behind the creation of New San Diego and MARKSMEN on the Benaroya site (  http://www.youtube.com/benaroyapublishing)          that makes for some interesting viewing.    I was able to confirm that, as I suspected, the events of   MARKSMEN occur in the near future after a recession progresses and government collapses when civil war breaks out.  Baxter simply followed through on this process, imagined what cities might best be equipped to survive on their own, and chose San Diego.

PEANUTS #0  (KaBOOM!)  $1 introductory issue. Cover + classic Peanuts strips by Charles M. Schulz.  New material by writer/artists Ron Zormann and Vicki Scott.  Colors by Lisa Moore.  Inks by Paige Braddock.

Peanuts_0_rev_CVR

For $1 you just can’t go wrong - - unless you decide not to pick up this book.  You’d be depriving yourself of a great example of the pioneer break-through work done in older newspaper comic strips by the great, trail-blazing Charles M. Schulz.  He introduced comics from the “funny pages” to all audiences and brought respectability to the format through his utilization of the Peanuts characters to turn a mirror on contemporary life, reflecting our phobias and quirks- all the things of human nature that are silly.  Peanuts should be required reading for all students of child psychology and adult psychology. 

 

The opening story, “Carnival Of The Animals” by Ron Zormann is very close to the classic Schulz style in both story and art.  In defending some of Snoopy’s crazy play-acting behavior, Lucy implies that Charlie Brown has no imagination which sends him into a defensive tirade. Naturally, Lucy has the last word and trashes his self-confidence.

This is followed by some classic reprints of Peanuts strips featuring fooPeanuts_CVtball kicker Charlie Brown and holder Lucy plus Snoopy’s pal Woodstock, a Halloween pumpkin strip and a lazy fall afternoon conversation between Charlie and sister Violet.   The closing story “Woodstock’s New Nest”  is a delightful story without script by Vicki Scott that relates Snoopy’s attempts to help Woodstock locate a new nesting place.

The capper is the final offering, a preview of HAPPINESS IS A WARM BLANKET, CHARLIE BROWN, an upcoming original graphic novel featuring Snoopy’s various attempts to extract that security blanket from soft-spoken Linus.

THE RINSE #3  (BOOM!)  Written by Gary Phillips.  Art by Marc Laming. Colors: Darrin Moore. Letters: Steve Wands.  Cover: Paul Azaceta.

THE RINSE #3 includes my favorite cover of the week (so far), featuring multiple targets all within gun sights including the reflection off a pair of shades.   The story inside is getting better and better as it moves along.

TheRinse_03

Jeff Sinclair barely manages to get himself away from the crash scene that ended last issue when a horse-back policeman wants to detain him as a witness.  He’s in the process of  “the biggest rinse of my career.”   Meanwhile hoodlums Griff and Graham continue to pursue Sinclair, as well as the physically and mentally sharp Detective Della Dash.

Unfortunately for Sinclair, he has some strong ties to his father as well as his close friends, and this leaves a trail that others can follow to him.  And, he can’t keep all records solely in his head.  He manages to get ahead of his pursuers just long enough to extract some of that revealing information from one of his “safe houses”, a  V.F.W. outpost, just minutes before they arrive.  Later, he gets out of a second predicament when the impatient girlfriend  (as well as wife of crime lord Maxon) of his customer Winslow uses her credit card and gets traced by the thugs. 

Even though I admire the cleverness and soft heart of the rinser Sinclair I can’t totally warm up to this character.  But, as of this issue I do have a hero to admire  - - and that is Detective Dash.  You have to admire her guts and street smarts and she evades the hoodlums and zeroes in on Sinclair.  She figures out Sinclair’s trail and follows him to his real “bank” connection.

ROGER LANGRIDGE’S SNARKED #1 & #2  Writer & Illustrator Roger Langridge.  Colors Rachelle Rosenberg. 

Fresh off his ground-breaking work on THE MUPPET SHOW and THE MIGHTY THOR Langridge debuts his latest creation, an original spin-off based on the Lewis Carroll Alice In Wonderland poem  = “The Walrus And The Carpenter”.   Langridge fleshes out those two characters, places them in a mystical medieval village, and gives them a quest/mission to propel their stories forward.

Snarked_2_CVA

This is great stuff for younger and older readers alike, a whimsical saga with many funny moments.  Wilburforce J. Walrus (the walrus character – duh!)  and Clyde McDunk (the carpenter character) are classic con-men, living a hand-to-mouth existence and spending much of their daytime activities focusing on where to obtain/con their next meal.  Wilburforce is a classic cartoonish character - - a blend of Foghorn Leghorn, W. C. Fields, and Jackie Gleason.  Clyde McDunk seems like he stepped right out of the pages of POPEYE or at least THE GOON.

The King has been missing for six months since he departed on a snark hunt.  In his absence the evil regents plot to appoint Prince Rusty as new ruler, someone they feel they can freely manipulate (since he is about two years old).  However, the precocious and savvy Princess Scarlett reminds them of the age restrictions on ascension to the throne - - meaning she becomes ruler despite being female since she meets the cut-off date (approximately seven years old).   Smart enough to realize that the regents’ next option may involve her murder, she grabs her brother and escapes to the village where she enlists Wilburforce and Clyde  and appoints them royal protectors.

There follows an episode involving tracking them down by The Gryphon, a character who will remind you of the bald eagle general from the Muppets.  They manage to elude him and determine to get their hands on the map that will lead them to the supposedly disposed and captive King.  Lots of fun in store here, and worth your checking it out.

OTHER BOOKS WORTH CHECKING OUT THIS WEDNESDAY:  ACTION COMICS #3;  ANIMAL MAN #3;  BATMAN #2;  ELRIC: THE BALANCE LOST #5;  H P LOVECRAFT: THE DUNWICH HORROR #1 of 4;  HELLRAISER #4;  JACK AVARICE IS THE COURIER #1 of 5;  MORIARTY #6;  SHERLOCK HOLMES: YEAR ONE #6;  SIX GUNS #1 of 6;  THE STRANGE TALENT OF LUTHER STRODE #2 of 6;  SWAMP THING #3;  WAREHOUSE 13 #2;  WITCHDOCTOR #4 of 4. 

Comics I Read: New 52 #2s

Of the New 52 titles I'm still reading, my reaction to the second issues was much the same as the firsts, but here are a few that changed my mind and/or surprised me in some way.


Action #2 & Superman #2: I liked both of these better than the first issues, now that we're getting a better sense of who this guy is (especially in Action). In Superman, I also appreciated that General Lane was played more as a guy who kinda has a point instead of a mustache-twirling villain.

Aquaman #2: The novelty of the "underdog superhero" isn't going to last forever, but I like the way Johns uses it to play up Arthur's humility. ("I'm happy to teach them.") The art, again, is stunning: one of the best-looking books in the whole line.

Firestorm #2: Something interesting happened with this issue, where the printed version did not reproduce properly but the digital version was perfect. Seems like not a huge deal at first glance, but I think we'll look back on it someday as a watershed in print vs. same-day digital comics. The digital pages are free from the limitations of real-world color reproduction, so they can always look like the artist intendend and even (theoretically) be corrected after the printed book ships. (And it's a great story, of course, even better written & drawn than #1.)

Hawk & Dove #2: Passed. I'm done giving money to Liefeld because he was awful to a friend of mine recently. (A person who was a fan, not a critic.) Yeah, that may seem like an insignificant protest, which hurts Rob minimally and also has Sterling Gates as collateral damage, but I'm constantly telling people that it doesn't matter if you complain about a title online. The only thing that matters is whether sales go up or down, so it's time I practice what I preach. And there are so many good books out there now that I don't feel too deprived giving up a writer and some characters that I like. As an alternative, here are some other titles where your support would probably mean a lot to the creators (and they haven't encouraged their fans to hate on anyone that I'm aware of): Roger Langridge's "Snarked!" (Boom!), Nate Cosby's "PIGS" (Image), Greg Pak's "Dead Man's Run" (Aspen), and Jay Faerber's "Near Death" (Image). (Faerber says he's also writing for the CW's "Ringer", which is kind of a shame because every character in the show is an idiot. Though I keep watching it, so they must be doing something right.)

Red Hood & The Outlaws #2: I like this book. I liked the first issue too, even though I criticized the handling of Starfire. Now Scott Lobdell's doing interviews saying Kory was being "sarcastic" in #1, and that of course she doesn't have a "Finding Nemo" memory. That's great, Scott, I'd love for Starfire to be the smartest character in this book, and it's awesome if that's what you intended all along. But here's the thing: I only can go by what's on the page. I can't read your mind, and I shouldn't need to read your press. And there's no indication in the dialogue or the art in #1 that Starfire's not being genuine. So please don't talk about the people who (mildly) criticized your book, but are still buying and enjoying it, as if we don't "get it". We're not the ones who didn't do our jobs properly. And no, I don't think this is the same thing as judging a story before its ending, which I'm usually not in favor of. (Is this post getting a little ranty? I feel like maybe it's a little ranty.)

Justice League #2: Maybe it's just that I'm comfortable with the relaunch now, but I liked this a lot better than #1. In the larger group, Batman seems more like a leader than a jerk. It's also nice that the Hal/Barry friendship still exists, and I loved that Batman pegged Barry as a cop right away.

Blackhawks #2: There's some slight hope here, with a subplot about the covert ops team being revealed to the world. That would at least be an original spin on the G.I. Joe idea that the "real" G.I. Joe comic can't do, but if this book is going that route they're inching there very slowly.

Men of War #2: Oohhh, now I get it. This is the military version of "Gotham Central". Sold.

Supergirl #2: Better than #1 (which I liked). I thought they did a good job of showing Kara's disorientation, and I actually felt something when she learns that Krypton is gone. Which is a huge accomplishment, given that it's information that I've known basically my whole life.

Legion Lost #2: This absolutely should have been issue #1. I wasn't as bothered by the frantic pace of #1 as most people were, but this issue is far more thoughtful and lays out the characters and premise in a much more understandable way. Hopefully the chaotic opening wasn't a fatal mistake for this book.

Voodoo #2: I kind of like this a little less now that the title character (spoiler) has returned to her original form. I was hoping she'd kill her way from one identity to the next each issue, like a murderous version of Deadman. (Yeah, that doesn't sound so sensible now that I say it out loud. Never mind.)

On the DC animation front, an ending and a beginning. The last couple of episodes of "Brave and the Bold" air in November, and I will miss it a lot. The last season has been especially awesome because Superman and Wonder Woman became available to the show, and the fact that they were nearing the end -- 65 episodes is standard for kids' cartoons for economic reasons -- seems to have emboldened them to use every wacky Silver Age idea they could think of, like this Alfred vs. Luthor bit below from "Triumvirate of Terror!". The series finale "Mitefall!", starring Bat-Mite and a surprise guest star that I will not reveal here, airs on Nov. 18, and afterwards I will be sad. Bruce Timm's new Green Lantern animated series has an hour special on Nov. 11, and then premieres in the spring. I was concerned about the CGI animation being stiff like "Iron Man: Armored Adventures" is, but the opening scene looks remarkably smooth. "Young Justice" also continues to air new episodes this fall, and is an excellent show. (And YJ doesn't just feature the junior characters; one of the most recent episodes had 42 DCU characters in it, including the JLA, a surprise JSA cameo, a Secret Society of Super-Villains and even Milestone's Icon & Rocket!)

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In other Green (actually Red) Lantern news, an Atrocitus & Dex-Starr preschool playset exists. I have seen one with my own eyes. (Oddly, there were no pictures of this online until recently; I originally saw it on the back of another package in the store.) And hey, guess who spent too much on Legionnaire action figures!

Lastly, from the "they reviewed it so I don't have to" department: Peanuts expert Nat Gertler takes a detailed look at the Peanuts comic out this week, and Star Trek author and friend of the blog Allyn Gibson reviews Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #1.