Tuesday, December 22, 2015

New Artist Edition: Jack Kirby's THE MIGHTY THOR

From the official press release .....

San Diego, CA (December 21, 2015) – IDW Publishing is pleased to announce Jack Kirby’s The Mighty Thor Artist’s Edition—the very first Marvel Comics Artist’s Edition to feature Kirby’s work. This mammoth 15” x 22” hardcover collection includes classic complete stories from Journey Into Mystery #111, #117, #118, and other stories, plus a beautiful gallery section by Kirby, the undisputed King of Comics.

"I've had the great pleasure of working with one of the most creative men in comics—the great Jack Kirby,” said Stan Lee, “whose magnificent artwork and wonderful story sense have rightly earned him the nickname ‘King Kirby.’ He had the ability to take any theme and make it look spectacular due to the power and the brilliance of his artwork. If ever a writer had the perfect collaborator, I was lucky to have had the brilliant and inimitable Jack Kirby."

Jack Kirby was the most important and influential artist in comic’s history. Besides Thor, he co-created most of the Marvel Universe, including Captain America, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Ant-Man, Iron Man, The Silver Surfer, and so many others. As writer, artist, innovator, his legacy is unparalleled. All the grandeur and energy that infused Kirby’s artistry is evident here—this is the next best thing to looking over the masters shoulder at his drawing board.

“Jack Kirby is still the visual heart of the Marvel style, so having an opportunity to experience his originals at the size they were drawn, corrections and all, is a rare and valuable opportunity for any aficionado of the comic book mediums,” said Marvel SVP & Executive Editor Tom Brevoort.

“Without Jack Kirby, the comic books we know and love would not exist,” said Special Projects Editor Scott Dunbier, “His work influenced and shaped the entire art form. It’s as simple as that.”

Look for Jack Kirby’s The Mighty Thor Artist’s Edition in stores this coming May.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, December 20, 2015

My Back Pages 12/20/2015: Browsing the Archives


THE COLONIZED #1-4  (IDW Publishing, April -July 2013)  Written by Chris Ryall.  Art by Drew Moss  Colors by Jay Fotos.  Letters by Tom B. Long


     This book features Zombies versus Aliens.  What more could you ask for?  There is actually a lot more, such as a small-town Montana collective community with the recent death of its’  leader igniting a power struggle.  A militant faction of the collective goes head to head with the environmentally minded group that wants to stay in power.  Can the son of the late leader carry on and pull this community back together?


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Things get complicated when an alien exploratory craft enters the Montana atmosphere and transports a human from ground level to their ship to make introductions.  The alien ship captain prepares his “take me to your leader” speech but gets a surprise.  It turns out that the ship hovered over a cemetery and tractor-beamed a buried corpse aboard the ship.  This activity causes the corpse to be revived as (you guessed it ) a flesh eating zombie.  Mayhem ensues aboard the spacecraft and it eventually crashes, inadvertently reviving all the dead relatives in the cemetery and unleashing a zombie infestation that spreads to cattle and livestock as well. 


    Aliens and humans have to work together to prevent a catastrophe. Mix in a secret weapons cache, a runaway train armed with explosives, and an ATF (Alcohol , Tobacco, and Firearms) agent infiltrating the community in order to track down a militant fugitive. 


     There’s a vibe to this book that resonates like the more entertaining parts of the MARS ATTACKS movie, comics and original trading cards.  The story is clever and so is the art, which provides a light-hearted touch to the more grisly activities.  


     THE COLONIZED is now available as a trade paperback and/or digital edition, featured on the www.idwpublishing.com  website.  

Friday, December 18, 2015

IDW announces Classic Star Wars in Artist's Edition

IDW to Collect Al Williamson’s 
Classic Star Wars in Artist’s Edition

EDITOR’S NOTE: Coming on the heels of the just released STAR WARS:THE FORCE AWAKENS the timing for this couldn’t be better.  Details below.  From the official press release . . . . . . . .

San Diego, CA (December 18, 2015) – The legendary late artist Al Williamson’s Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back stories are collected in the award-winning Artist’s Edition format this April. Included will be the complete adaptation, first published in issues #39 through #44 of the monthly Marvel Star Wars comic. In addition, pages from Star Wars #50, #98 and the Star Wars: Return of the Jedi mini series will also be presented. 
"Al loved drawing Star Wars,” said Williamson’s wife, Cori Williamson. “It’s a science fiction swashbuckler, the kind of story that really appealed to his sensibilities. As a lover and collector of classic comic-book and comic strip art, I think he would have been thrilled to see his work presented in this format."

Williamson began his storied career as one of the star artists at EC Comics in the 1950s. In the 1960s Williamson drew the definitive comic-book version of Flash GordonAlex Raymond’s classic comic strip creation. Other highlights of Williamson’s work include the X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan newspaper strip, as well as the Star Wars newspaper strip. He is an Eisner Award-winning artist and was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic-Book Hall of Fame in 2000.
“The collaboration between IDW and Marvel has produced some of the most exceptional collections of reprinted original comic book material ever to be offered,” says Marvel SVP Sales & Marketing David Gabriel. “Al Williamson’s Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Artist’s Edition of the original Marvel Comics film adaptation is a brightly glowing star within the galaxy of immaculate Star Wars content.”
George Lucas commented after Williamson’s passing in 2010, "I was thrilled to be able to have Al depicting those early extended Star Wars adventures for the comic books and newspapers. In capturing the actors who portrayed the characters, he brought the feeling of the films to the page as few other artists have been able to do."

This incredible Artist’s Edition will be a 160 page hardcover and measure a whopping 14”x21”. The Force is strong in this book.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Shadowman returns in new NINJAK story arc

EDITOR’S NOTE:  We have missed the presence of Shadowman from Valiant titles for several months.  Ninja #10 begins the four-part story of his return.  We’ve been waiting anxiously for this ever since it was announced.  The story pulls you in right away.  It also re-introduces Punk Mambo, another great Valiant character.  Here is a short preview to whet your appetite without giving away too much.



NINJAK #10  (Valiant Entertainment. December 9, 2015 release date) “Operation Deadside: Part 1”.  Matt Kindt, writer.  Doug Braithwaite, artist.  Brian Reber with Soto, color artists.  Taylor Esposito, letterer.  “The Lost Files: Legend of The Magpie”.  Matt Kindt, writer.  Juan Jose Ryp, artist.  Ulises Arreola, colorist.  Taylor Esposito, letterer.


     This time we’re going to talk about the art first.  Without detracting at all from the very engaging and well-paced story, the art in this issue is an absolute home run.  Give credit to writer Matt Kindt for imagining the nightmare world that Ninjak will travel.  But it’s the magic of artist Doug Braithwaite who really brings it to life.  Braithwaite’s art really works extremely well with the story.  It’s not something you see everyday despite the plethora of skilled writers and artists working in comics today.  The last time I was impressed this way was the Captain America run of issues scripted by Ed Brubaker and detailed in photo-realistic imagery (without tracing) by artist Steve Epting. 


     In tNINJAK 010 VARIANT JOHNSONhe main story, the MI-6 secret research and holding compound is broken into, and demolished in an effort to free a special prisoner - - The Fakir, one of the Shadow Seven agents previously captured by Ninjak, and possessing magical regeneration and distortion abilities.  He is freed by Ember, a powerful oversize agent with a magical hammer (who resembles an ogre or giant troll similar to Ulik from the Thor books) who transports Fakir through a portal to the Deadside.  The first mission to enter the Deadside and re-capture the prisoner results in a complete failure. So Colin King / Ninjak is called in.  And paired up with Punk Mambo.


     They make for two unlikely partners.  Ninjak comes with extra preparation and a battle suit modified for Deadside conditions.  Punk Mambo wears her usual garb - - leather jacket, hot pants, garters and combat boots — which offset her pink mohawk nicely. There are some amusing quips between the two. My favorite line occurs while Ninjak is getting battle-dressed.  Punk Mambo observes with interest and comments: “You been spendin’ too much time with X-O Manowar.”  


     She uses her magic to conjure a loa and they ride it into the dangerous dimension of the Deadside.  It doesn’t take them long to locate their quarry and they get into trouble immediately.  It’s a great start to what looks to be a very entertaining storyline.

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    What immediately impresses about the back-up feature, “Legend of The Magpie” is the art by Juan Jose Ryp.  It’s just the right blend of Barry Windsor Smith and Art Adams plus Ryp’s personal touch to truly indicate the barbarity of the environment depicted.  


     The second story is told through narrative captions in past tense.  The Magpie is the emissary of Master Darque, the most powerful being in the Deadside, and has been charged with tracking down some lost artifacts.  The Magpie resembles a Mongol warrior with dreadlocks and a death mask, his body wrapped in many bandages. His torso is confined by long lengths of glowing blue mystical rope, by which Darque keeps him under control and subservient.  But that death mask is a giveaway.  We experienced readers know that this is Shadowman.  Despite tales of his ruthlessness some bits of memory are returning and his humanity is awakening. 


SUMMARY:  A great start to this new story.  We look forward to Chapter Two.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Christmas Cosplay Day at Local Comic Shop

 Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, Delaware has been collecting canned food for their annual Holiday Food Drive to benefit the needy and homeless in the area.  To help bolster interest in the cause they held a special Christmas Cosplay Day at the Hen House today (Saturday, December 12). 

   We dropped by to make our donation and see who we could meet.  Unfortunately, our timing was off and we missed Batman, Captain America and Ms. Marvel.  But we had some fun meeting Deadpool and Harley Quinn who were full of Christmas cheers.


Deadly but friendly - - - - Deadpool. 


 Harley Quinn - - Don’t call her Miss Deadpool by mistake. That mallet hurts!

PC120056Santa’s jovial helper  - -  who also resembles a Captain Blue Hen employee. 

ROM THE SPACE KNIGHT returns after decades away

San Diego, CA (December 10, 2015) – Rom the Space Knight began life as one of the first LED-driven action figures in the late 1970s, then went on to much more acclaim as a comic book hero. Now, removed from comics for over three decades, the character is being given new life in Rom the Space Knight, an all-new comic book series from IDW Publishing.

From the official IDW Press Release . . . . . . . 
Rom the Space Knight #0 will make its debut on the first Saturday in May as IDW’s “Gold” offering for Free Comic Book Day. The annual FCBD event sees thousands upon thousands of comics from all publishers given away for free at participating comic shops. The comic will be co-written by IDW Chief Creative Officer/Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall and acclaimed comic-book/TV writer Christos Gage. Art on Rom #0 will be handled by David Messina, who will also be sharing artistic duties on the ongoing Rom series. The cover art for Rom #0 is by the Wild Blue Yonder team of Zach Howard and Nelson Daniel.
“It’s no hyperbole for me to say that launching a new Rom comic is one of the things we’ve most wanted to make happen for fans,” said Chris Ryall. “I know this because I’m one of them. The character has been absent from comics for too long and we can’t wait to introduce this all-new version to the world.”
Rom the Space Knight tells the story of Rom, a member of the benevolent Solstar Order and greatest of the Space Knights, interstellar soldiers in a centuries-old war with the Dire Wraiths. The Wraiths are a race of alien invaders who’ve destroyed many planets and infiltrated Earth for nefarious purposes.
Rom the Space Knight #0 will feature an introductory 10-page story of Rom’s arrival on Earth, an incident that sets up an ongoing Rom series launching in July 2016.
“Many people have only heard of Rom but that’s it,” continued Ryall. “And those that do know of his past iteration might have some preconceived notion of what this series will be. And while we can promise that the DNA of the character as established with the original toy remains intact, there will be surprises galore as people experience a new universe built entirely around Rom and company.”
As an added bonus, the issue will contain additional content including character sketches, creator interviews and a glimpse of things to come. This debut represents a major launch for IDW and Hasbro next year, and this special first story will be free throughout the universe next May!

Hasbro (NASDAQ: HAS) is a global company committed to Creating the World's Best Play Experiences, by leveraging its beloved brands, including LITTLEST PET SHOP, MAGIC: THE GATHERING, MONOPOLY, MY LITTLE PONY, NERF, PLAY-DOH and TRANSFORMERS, and premier partner brands. From toys and games, television programming, motion pictures, digital gaming and lifestyle licensing, Hasbro fulfills the fundamental need for play and connection with children and families around the world. The Company's Hasbro Studios and its film label, ALLSPARK PICTURES, create entertainment brand-driven storytelling across mediums, including television, film, digital and more. Through the company's commitment to corporate social responsibility, including philanthropy, Hasbro is helping to build a safe and sustainable world and to positively impact the lives of millions of children and families.

About IDW
IDW Publishing is an award-winning publisher of comic books, graphic novels and trade paperbacks, based in San Diego, California. Renowned for its diverse catalog of licensed and independent titles, IDW publishes some of the most successful and popular titles in the industry, including: Hasbro’s The TRANSFORMERS, G.I. JOE, MY LITTLE PONY and JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS; Paramount/CBS’s Star Trek; Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Toho’s Godzilla; Twentieth Century Fox’s The X-Files; Sony’s Ghostbusters, Temple Street Productions’ Orphan Black; multiple monthly DISNEY titles; and many more licensed and creator-driven titles.
IDW Publishing is also home to acclaimed imprints such as; The Library of American Comics, which publishes classic comic reprints; Yoe! Books, a partnership with Yoe! Studio; and the multiple award-winning IDW Artist’s Edition line. In 2015, IDW acquired Top Shelf Productions, an award-winning publisher of graphic novels. Top Shelf is known for publishing works of literary sophistication, including the #1 New York Times and Washington Post Best Seller March by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell and the authorized graphic-novel adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
IDW Games publishes both creator-owned and licensed tabletop games. The division was launched in 2014 and has quickly found success with one of the top-selling card games of the year with the Award-Winning Japanese import card game, Machi Koro. 
IDW Entertainment was started in 2013 to fund, develop, and produce television series based on IDW properties. IDW Entertainment is currently in development with a slate of properties for television including Wynonna Earp, licensed to Syfy and premiering in early 2016; Brooklyn Animal Control, sold to USA Network with executive producers David Goyer (DaVinci’s Demons, Dark Knight Rises) and Circle of Confusion (Walking Dead); and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, sold to BBC America with writer/executive producer Max Landis (Chronicle).
IDW Entertainment also has several active theatrical projects in development, including Zombies vs. Robots, which is in development as a major motion picture with Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes and Sony.




Thursday, December 10, 2015

Politics and Horror mix in THE EIGHTH SEAL



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THE EIGHTH SEAL #1 (IDW Publishing, December 2015) Written by James Tynion IV.  Penciled and Inked by Jeremy Rock.  Colored by Nolan Woodard.  Lettered by Troy Peteri.  


     We see his name coming up more these days. Comics writer James Tynion IV is not only prolific; he’s also very diverse.  Best known for his work on TALON for DC and THE WOODS, MEMETIC and COGNETIC for BOOM, he’s also co-writing BATMAN AND ROBIN ETERNAL with Scott Snyder and mixing genres with the just-released BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. Without benefit of any other information, learning that the title of Tynion’s newest offering is THE EIGHTH SEAL doesn’t indicate what it might be about. One look at the cover and you know automatically that this is a horror story.  Jeremy Rock’s cover illustration depicts body horror/transformation of the worst kind.


    The story starts off like you would expect a psychological horror tale to begin, in the analyst’s professional office. Amelia Greene suffers from disturbing visions and is having trouble sleeping. These horrifying sights have become waking visions, and the last one resulted in her losing consciousness and falling to the floor. She keeps seeing herself transformed into a monster that attacks children and loved ones. Her psychiatrist diagnoses this as extreme stress.  She wants him to prescribe an even stronger dose of the medication she’s been taking to suppress the visions. He seems a little too distant and aloof, and suspicious.


    Frequent readers of horror tales and horror comics may feel that they have read similar stories in the past, but this one travels down a different path.  Amelia Greene is the First Lady of the United States.  Is she truly having difficulty or is she being manipulated? Politics rears its’ ugly head. In addition, there are some interesting subplots involving conflict between the White House Chief of Staff and the advisor/co-ordinator for the President’s wife. 


   As Issue #1 progresses, Amelia sees the monster’s image again and it seems another spell/event is about to occur as the issue ends. 





     Above:  James Tynion IV at Baltimore Comic Con, September 2015


     Author Tynion has referred to THE EIGHTH SEAL in several interviews as “Rosemary’s Baby meets The West Wing.”  It’s not hard to imagine the stress of being the wife of the most powerful man in the United States causing massive anxiety which could possibly lead to visions and nightmares.  That’s politics for you!  Of course, those of us who enjoy horror are rooting for this to be something much worse. 


     THE EIGHTH SEAL is not a brand new comic, but is being published in a print edition for the first time.  It debuted in April 2013 on the THRILLBENT website, Mark Waid’s subscription service for original digital comics, and has posted nine chapters to date.  Issue #1 of the IDW series reprints Chapters 1 and 2.  Those two chapters can also be viewed for free on the THRILLBENT website, and it’s worthwhile to check out THE EIGHTH SEAL in both versions.  The click and reveal feature of the digital site lends some additional shock value to the proceedings, but the print version is still effective and should provide some fun frights for horror fans.  


     The art by Jeremy Rock might seem rather workmanlike, until you view the panels that illustrate the strange visions.  This is where the skills of Rock are truly showcased. The images are definitely creepy and disturbing. 



Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pizza time for Batman in new and unusual crossover

BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #1 of 6  (DC Comics & IDW Publishing; February 2016 cover date, released December 09, 2015)  Script: James Tynion IV  Art and Cover: Freddie E Williams II  Colors: Jeremy Colwell Letters: Tom Napolitano.  Variant Cover: Kevin Eastman with Tomi Varga.  Batman created by Bob Kane with Bill Finger.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles created by Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird.


     I first heard4679089 batman tmnt 02 about this crossover during a panel at Baltimore Comic Con in September 2015.  At the time it seemed like a cool idea to have these characters meet, and the Comic Con crowd was certainly enthusiastic about it.  However, when the first issue became available for pre-order in October, I passed on the opportunity to get a copy.  Then, I was thinking that trying to blend these two very different characters and their worlds together would be a very daunting task and wouldn’t necessarily make for a good story.  Fun to see perhaps, but probably not a great read. A safer approach would be to wait for some favorable reviews, and then pick up the trade paperback and read the story all at one time.  You guessed it. I bought my copy of Issue #1 today. 



On the upside, writer James Tynion IV certainly knows his way around the Batman universe.  But would he “get” the feel of the Turtles and be able to portray them accurately?  Forget about trying to stay true to current Batman and TMNT continuity and storylines - - just blend those two styles and moods together and you’ve got a winner. 

After reading the first issue, and making allowances for the necessary introductions, I’m happy to conclude that Tynion pulls it off.  Somehow he keeps the Turtles true to form and manages to squeeze them into the world of Gotham, where this opening issue occurs.  So, if you’ve been curious about this book and thought about checking it out, I recommend that you do so.  This was fun.  I’m ready to continue.


     Two things that occur make it easier to accept.  First, in the opening scene the Turtles are introduced to Gotham in a dark and mysterious manner, in a way that befits the storytelling style of Batman.  Secondly, just when readers may be struggling to accept talking humanoid turtles in the world of Batman, we meet the main villain this issue - - none other than Killer Croc.  What’s so unique about pizza-eating, video game playing Turtles after we’ve already accepted a talking and scheming overgrown crocodile walking upright?  These Turtles are serious when they need to be and playful the rest of the time, just like in their current series at IDW. 

Batman TMNT 620 x 400 

     The story revolves around a series of attacks at various corporate research labs in Gotham, with different types of military-grade technology being stolen from each facility  The attackers are the Foot Clan, headed by Shredder.  Apparently, they have found a way to enter the world of Gotham and have a deliberate mission in mind.  While they don’t seem to understand how they got here or how to get back, The Turtles (accompanied by Master Splinter) also seem to have a purpose for being in Gotham - -  to stop the Foot Clan.   Batman gets wind of the thefts and starts his investigation by considering all the possibilities, and then realizing that the criminals are not the usual suspects but unknown and unfamiliar.  He suspects ninjas based on the evidence at hand. Through an interview with a scientist, he learns there are also “monstrous meta-humans” involved. While interrogating one of the Foot Clan, he hears the first mention of “turtles.”  They don’t meet each other until the end of the issue, which means we can expect a good fight (unless one side wants to chat) in Issue #2. 


     The art by Freddie E. Williams II is interesting and a bit different from the styles normally seen in Batman and TMNT books.  Everyone is very muscular, and Batman is bulky-looking as if he is wearing armor.  The inks and colors by the rest of the art team help give a look to Williams’ work here that reminds me of early Richard Corben.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

What's new tomorrow 12/09?: THE PRECINCT

Precinct01 Cov A Benitez

THE PRECINCT #1  (Dynamite, December 09, 2015 release date)  Writer Frank J. Barberie.  Artist Crizam Christhian Zamora.  Colorist Dinei Ribeiro.  Letterer Troy Peteri.


Yearning for a steampunk police procedural / mystery?  THE PRECINCT just might be what you are looking for.  The book looks stunning, with very imaginative artwork.  

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Big City is a steampunk metropolis, complete with blimps, elevated railroads and all sorts of machinery, all powered by steam.  The people dress in Victorian era garb and the locales also reflect that period of time.  Think Sherlock Holmes transplanted to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.   Law and order is the responsibility of the local police force, commonly referred to as The Precinct.


Veteran Officer Mortimer Hill is a hard-nosed, rough mannered cop with a mechanical arm.  He gets called into a murder investigation involving the Grand Master of the Alchemy Academy, a secretive commune blending religion and alchemy while denouncing a steam-powered machine based society.  He has to pair up with Acolyte Josephine Winters, assigned by the Academy to assist the local police.  


   There is tension and dislike between the two.  In fact, the entire Alchemy Academy is offended by his involvement when introduced to Officer Hill because of his mechanized arm. The story moves along quickly and the art is a delight to behold.  Inks and colors are gorgeous.  Some giant mechanical monsters/robots are also lurking in the background to help spice things up.


This may be a book to watch.  Another issue or two will determine that.

Sunday, December 6, 2015


EDITOR’S NOTES:  It’s good to see DC bringing back the Vertigo line of non-superhero titles in a variety of genres for mature readers.  We’d love to review them all but our BC Refugees Controller says the budget won’t take it.  (DC doesn’t acknowledge our presence; so we never get any review copies).  The plan was to see which titles were getting the most favorable word of month after a few issues and then wait for the eventual trade paperback edition.  But curiosity got the better of us; so we picked up this particular title.  Hope we made the right choice.  Review to follow . . . . .


THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON #1  (DC/VERTIGO, February 2016) Eight issue mini-series. Tom King, writer.  Mitch Gerads, art and colors.  Nick Napolitano, letterer.  Created by King & Gerads.  Suggested for Mature Readers.  www.vertigocomics.com


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    This new Vertigo title (released December 02, 2015) takes place in Iraq during February 2004, ten months after the fall of Baghdad, and focuses on the American occupying forces in the Green Zone.


     Classifying THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON as a crime comic seems too easy. While it qualifies for that genre description, it could also be considered a war comic because of the setting, or a noir theme based on the way it’s told.  It doesn’t matter as long as it entertains and finds its audience. We are intrigued by what we’ve seen of Issue #1, but are also confused. 


     However, we’re fans of challenging stories that make the reader work to understand them as long as it’s not impossible to achieve that comprehension.  On the downside, sometimes the confusion is due to poor writing and/or poor visualization. So which is it as regards THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON?  We believe it’s intentional, deliberate and calculated. This story occurred during a confusing time.


     Imagine that you are an American soldier or serving in any capacity (medical, intelligence, engineering, etc) in Iraq. Sometimes you cannot recognize a hostile threat. Some of the residents of this foreign country welcome your presence and others want you gone.  And it can be difficult to tell one from the other. The enemy doesn’t identify their soldiers by uniform.  And they use teens, women, the elderly, and children to accomplish their ends. It creates confusion.  Uncertainty.  Anxiety.  Tension.  You can never relax. Always on guard. Danger could be anywhere.  


   When exploring THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON the reader can become confused.  It is clear which Iraqi citizen is an ally and which citizen is not?  To what purpose is a character pursuing a particular action?  Is it clear to the reader when a character is confronted with a real threat?  Confusion in story-telling makes it easier for the reader to understand the experience of soldiers in this setting.  When the confusion serves the writers’ purpose, then it is good story-telling. We did not get to ask writer Tom King, a former CIA operations officer who served in Iraq, if this was his intent.  We just believe that he knows how it was from personal experience. Artist Mitch Gerads is a fine choice to illustrate a war story.  His ability to convey confusion, despair, sorrow and various emotions on the faces of the characters makes this quite a gripping tale. 


     Telling too much of what occurs in Issue #1 would do more than spoil the story  It would reduce the shock value.  There are some uncomfortable scenes that should be experienced first-hand for maximum effect. We’re going to make a comparison to an event that occurs in the story rather than give away the details.  Just imagine the uncertainty that a police officer assigned to the jumper squad of the emergency services department have to face.  As they try to talk down the person standing on a building ledge do they ever know for certain if that person fully intends to commit suicide or are they just depressed and looking for help?  There is a similar situation that military contractor Chris Henry, the main character, has to face but it’s more dangerous and deadly.  He doesn’t come off as being experienced at this and makes awkward conversation. The resolution to this is the scene that stays with us after reading Issue #1.  It makes a definite impression. 


     Christopher has the job of training the Iraqi police force.  He has to assume the role of a detective after one of the trainees is found dead. 


     Sofia is an Iraqi woman educated in the United States who has returned to her country.  She has a seat on the Iraqi council. She seems to have a lot of influence and her feedback and assistance is sought by American Army officers, Iraqi medical officials, tribal leaders and commoners and criminals.  It’s also unclear what her motives are. But she seems ruthless. But not without principles and values. 


     Nassir is an Iraqi police officer, formerly serving in that capacity under Saddam Hussein and now working with Americans. He’s seen more than his share of tragedy and loss and questions both his faith and his occupation. 


     The art is gritty and edgy, exactly what the story calls for.  There is also an impressive double page scene of a major highway intersection with towering buildings  in the background, some of them partially ruined and smoking. The colors are muted, conveying the dusty, overcast haze that must be present there.  There’s a Bible quotation in the caption that clarifies the connection with Babylon in the title. 


     There’s also an effective method used by the creative team to convey how extreme the violence can be.  It’s a jet black panel with just one word in white font:  bang.  There’s a lot to be impressed with in Issue #1 of THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON.


     We believe we made the right choice of Vertigo title to review. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


DOC SAVAGE: THE SPIDER’S WEB #1  (Dynamite Entertainment, December 2015)  Written by Chris Roberson.  Art buy Cezar Razek.  Colors by Dijo Lima.  Letters by Simon Bowland


     He’s one of the enduring heroes who won’t go away, and we’re grateful for that!  He was created and intro200px Docsavageduced in the era before television when Americans looked to books, magazines and comics for their major entertainment fix.  Doc Savage, like his fellow 1930’s pulp magazine counterparts The Shadow, The Avenger and others, continues to find a new audience every decade or so. There continue to be hardcover and paperback reprints of those ten-cent novels, the occasional film treatment, and a score of comic book adaptations and original radio plays and novels based on Doc Savage.  The model for the original Man of Bronze was influenced by the keen mind and deductive ability of Sherlock Holmes, the strength of Hercules, the scientific brain of Einstein, Edison and others, and the adventurous nature of Marco Polo and Allan Quatermain. Doc Savage then influenced later works and became the template for Superman, Batman, Mister Fantastic, Indiana Jones, Buckaroo Banzai and many modern day super-heroes. 


     Any lover of pure adventure tales can find hours of escapism in the Doc Savage novels. I was first introduced to the stories by the 1960’s Bantam paperback reprints with gorgeous covers illustrated by James Bama. There have been many comic book series since then from Marvel, DC, Millennium, Dark Horse and others and every one of them has been worthwhile and true to the source material.  The most recent publisher to try their hand at new works featuring Doc Savage is Dynamite Entertainment, who published a limited series scripted by Chris Roberson in 2013-2014.  I’m glad to see that they are giving Doc Savage another chance to catch on with modern audiences and have retained Chris Roberson as writer, who did a fine job on the earlier series. 

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     In this latest version of the Man of Bronze, writer Roberson has placed the story in modern times, and updated the Doc Savage family while retaining many of the elements that are part and parcel of the legend. 


      Back in the 1930’s Doc Savage worked with a crackerjack team of five allies, who all brought different skill levels and abilities into the mix.  He was often assisted by Pat Savage, his younger attractive female cousin, equally athletic and with light hair and bronze skin that made her look like Doc’s sister.  Their base of operations was the 86th floor of the Empire State Building in New York City.  Doc owned a fleet of cars, trucks, boats, and airplanes which were stored in garages, docks and hangars near the Hudson River.   


  The center of operations in DOC SAVAGE: THE SPIDER’S WEB is the towering skyscraper Savage Corporate Headquarters, a large complex housing modern technology and data processing equipment, where Doc’s staff members monitor events occurring across the globe.  It seems as if Doc Savage has dedicated himself to responding to natural disasters wherever they occur on the planet and has several teams he can dispatch to help out.  The names of some of the young team members are similar to some of Doc’s original five aides. Perhaps they are descendants, but that information has not been provided just yet. 




    DocSavageSpider 01 4 While those five companions are no longer around, both Doc Savage and Patricia Savage are present and neither one looking as old as they should.  Pat’s hair is now silver and there are some lines in her face, but she still is active, alert and maneuvers around without a wheelchair or assistance.  I would not expect that kind of active life for someone who should be around 100 years in age.  Even more surprising, Doc Savage looks even younger, and seems as big and strong as ever.  Either they are immortal, live an extremely clean life, discovered a youth serum, or just come from a line of long-lived ancestors.  Perhaps their youthful appearance and endurance will be explained in a future issue. Doc still gets right into the action as usual, using his strength to help with the earthquake rescue efforts. 


     Had this new adventure occurred only  in present times, I don't think I would be recommending this book.  While some of the characters are still there and Doc’s modus operandi hasn’t changed dramatically, it doesn’t have the feel of the original.  I shuddered when I remembered what happened to DC’s Blackhawk  title in the early 1970’s when they decided to update that group with new uniforms, super-powers, etc.  What a mess. I”d hate to see Doc Savage go down a similar trail. 


     However, writer Chris Roberson has wisely included a flashback scene of an adventure with the original team that is spot-on and has the flavor that Doc Savage fans have come to favor. Roberson cleverly links the current events to the past events.  There is a logical connection and the clues that help explain who the perpetrator might be are easy for readers to find. The flashback scene takes up nearly all of the second half of the book, and that is very welcome and entertaining.  


     Investigation of the current day earthquake site turns up a devicDocSavageSpiders01 Cov B Sub Laminge that may have triggered the event rather than a natural occurrence.  Doc recalls a similar but more primitive device from a case back in 1935 regarding the “melting man.”  Just like the original writers, Roberson does a credible job of explaining the pseudo-science to help make the invention seem plausible to readers.  As 1930’s Doc explains to his crew: “The device is capable of generating strong vibrations like an oscillator.  The police officer didn’t melt so much as he was subjected to vibrations so intense that they liquefied his flesh and bones.” 


   The art by Cezar Razek is engaging and showcases his dynamic style in the larger action panels.  The colors and inks are vivid and sharp.  And the lettering job by Simon Bowland is easy on the eyes. (He must be the busiest guy.  I see his credits on almost every Dynamite book I pick up.)  


  It’s a nice start to a new story in DOC SAVAGE: THE SPIDER’S WEB.  The title implies that Doc may get embroiled in something more dangerous once his investigation into the vibration device pulls in more evidence and suspects.   It will be interesting to see if Roberson can maintain that delicate balance between a modern day Doc Savage operation and the original 1930’s pulp action style. 


     In another nice touch, many of the covers to Issue #1 are reminiscent of the same format and font that were used on the 1960’s Bantam paperback covers. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What's new 12/02?: Seduction Of The Innocent

SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT #1  (Dynamite Entertainment, December 2015)  Writer:  Ande Parks.  Artist:  Esteve Polls.  Colors: Salvatore Aiala Studios.  Letters:  Simon Bowland.  Cover: Francesco Francavilla.


   The cover to SEDUCSeduction01 Cov A FrancavillaTION OF THE INNOCENT is an homage to those classic 1950’s EC comics that featured crime, suspense, war, horror, science fiction and fantasy.  The title is a sly reference to the 1954 nonfiction book by scaremonger Frederic Wertham which attempted to  “expose” the potential of comic books to corrupt young minds.  As a result of Congressional investigations prompted by the book, EC Comics discontinued their comics line and survived thanks to the popularity of a black and white magazine they published called MAD.  The hearings also resulted in the formation of the Comics Code Authority, a self-censorship group of comics publishers.


     The cover of this new work recalls a different time and a different era for comic books.  For older readers, it will bring out feelings of nostalgia for those classic tales. The contents of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT will go a long ways towards satisfying those cravings.  It’s like a throwback to the early days. Art and story evoke those legendary tales from the EC days.  Even the cover blurb is reminiscent of the way comics used to be marketed:  “Horrific Tales Of True Crime in the Dynamite Tradition.”  However, after reading the first issue I’m going to have a hard time believing the story is based on true events.  Possible, for sure.  Probable, not so sure.  However, we seriously doubt that those 1950’s comics that featured the word “True” in front of every title (True Teen Romance, True Crime, True War Stories, etc.)  were based on facts rather than pure fiction.


         The opening issue takes place in 1954 San Francisco, and gets the little historic details right as evidenced by the scenes at a curbside newsstand.  A young law enforcement agent moves with his pregnant wife from Cleveland to make a new start with the newly formed FBI Organized Crime Unit in San Francisco.  He’s got a reputation as a sharpshooter but has a weak stomach for scenes of bloodshed. 


     Within the last few months six different mob bosses have been violently murdered and the FBI is desperately hunting for any evidence that will point them in the 

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direction of the perpetrators.  A rival gang leader trying to muscle his way in by taking out all the competition?  Or is there a darker conspiracy at work?


      The dialogue is shar
p and crisp and reflects the vernacular of the times without being corny.  Beyond the complications of the initial pilot there are sub-plots brewing involving the young new cop and others. There is a lot of depth in this story, and a lot of potential for good future issues.


   The art is equal to the task.  Smaller panels.  Lots of action. More than enough blood and violence. Again, historic details are paid attention to with great care by the art team. Everybody in law enforcement wears hats and long coats.  The cars and transportation vehicles are true to the time period. 


     After reading the ending pages with conversation between two of the murderers, I wonder if the title of this book has even more significance.  And something they say would support that theory.  However,  I won’t spoil you fun by spilling the beans. Read the damn thing for yourself, pal.

What's New on Wednesday 12/02?: JAMES BOND OO7

JAMES BOND 007 #2  (Dynamite Entertainment, December 2015)  “Vargr”  Warren Ellis, writer.  Jason Masters, artist.  Guy Majors, colors.  Simon Bowland, letters.  James Bond created by Ian Fleming.


    With the Issue #1 JamesBond02 Cov A Reardon introductions and formalities out of the way, Issue #2 of JAMES BOND 007 gets into the meat of the story and does so in standard Bond fashion with action upfront.   That’s the way we like our Bond and have come to anticipate it.  


    I shared my copy of Issue #1 with family members, who commented that there were lots of caption-less and dialogue-free panels.  “Too many pictures” was the comment.  “Not enough story. It reads too fast and doesn't deliver enough for the money.”  That is a valid opinion and one that may be shared by many readers.  Another opinion, and one that I share, is that this is the way we like our James Bond - - things happen fast and with lots of action.  What better way to illustrate action, especially violent fighting, than to let the art depict what happens unencumbered by dialogue?  In the real world, how much talking goes on during a life and death struggle?   One of the best things about this newest version of James Bond is the art and how brilliantly these fight scenes are detailed with “pictures” alone and nothing else.


   One of the other things that make this comic worthwhile is that Warren Ellis “gets it”.  He reminds us that this is James Bond not by beating us over the head with details but through the subtle nuances and actions of the character.


    Ellis gets his Bond banter between both female and male characters right, with clever and sometimes cunning sarcastic comments and answers. My favorite Bond line occurs during a discussion with his German counterparts about the spy game in modern times: “Do you know why MI6 continues to impress?  Because Britain lost her empire first, so we learned how to club people quietly in the dark first.”


     In Issue #1, Bond is assigned to Berlin to investigate a new producer of some potentially fatal street drugs with a pharmaceutical signature linking it to a prominent high-tech research company.  He also learns that due to new regulations he must travel weapons-free until he arrives at his destination.  That sets Bond up for an attempt on his life in the beginning of Issue #2, shortly after his arrival in Berlin.  He manages to escape and the details of that are in the brilliant yet simple illustrations across several pages. All action.  No words.  (Yes! Feels like I’m watching the movie.) 


     Bond investigates the connection to a cutting-edge pharmaceutical research company headed up by Slaven Kurjak, who may or not be an adversary in sheep’s clothing.  Bond learns that Kurjakmedizin has ties to the CIA in America, who are partially funding some very interesting experiments. Due to his connections, Kurjak has identified the garage operation where the highly processed cocaine is made and gives the address to Bond.  Is it a legitimate lead or a trap?  Have to wait for Issue #3 to find out.


   During the proceedings in Issue #2 we are introduced to another sultry woman with deadly skills and an equally intriguing Bond-like name:  Dharma Reach.  And the huge feel-on-pain assassin from Issue #1 shows up in a few panels.  Meanwhile, back in London the after-effects of the new drugs are beginning to be revealed in ugly ways.


Bring on Issue #3.