Saturday, February 17, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: February 14th

Archie #28 (Archie Comics) This was another pretty great issue from Mark Waid and Audrey Mok, but the best part? Reggie Mantle casually popping kids' balloons with a knife as he passes them on the street, plotting a villainous scheme out loud to himself.

The shiny metal cover means there aren't decent images of it available online and I can't scan it so that it looks halfway decent either, so there's the two-page title splash by Jimenez.
Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1 (DC Comics) Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and company's extremely successful Dark Nights: Metal event series, which just published its penultimate issue last month, owes quite a debt to Grant Morrison. Not simply, or even primarily, that cool scene in the beginning where Kendra Saunders dramatically flips over the map of the Multiverse from the Morrison-written Multiversity and reveals that the black, back of the map is itself a map, a map of the so-called "Dark Multiverse." No, Snyder has also incorporated bits and pieces from Morrison's Final Crisis and attendant comics, and the root of Metal involves elements from Morrison's Batman run, particularly Darkseid sentencing Batman to the Omega Sanction.

So it is fitting that Morrison himself gets an opportunity to contribute to the series, with this laboriously titled one-shot special, one that functions more-or-less like Metal #5.5, detailing as it does what is going on with The Flash and Cyborg, the only one of the smaller teams of Justice Leaguers that was left out of Metal #5.

Morrison and Snyder are but two of the writers credited on this 32-page story. James Tynion an Joshua Williams are also credited, and the art is produced by Howard Porter, Jorge Jimenez, Doug Mahnke and Jamie Mendoza. Who did what isn't specified, so I'm not sure if Snyder and Morrison plotted and Tynion and Williamson divvied up pages to script, or if the entire thing was written rock band style as 52 reportedly was or...what. It's worth noting that it all reads an awful lot like Grant Morrison though, with a touch of Snyder evident. As for the art, the three primary artists have different enough styles that it is rather immediately obvious who is drawing one.

The secret origin of Detective Chimp is weaved throughout the story, which mainly focuses on Flash, Cyborg and Raven's mission to reach the House of Heroes in Nix Uotan's ship, while the Dark Knights pursue them in The Authority's carrier. Meanwhile, Detective Chimp and a collection of the world's greatest scientists--mad and otherwise--try to assist. There are a lot of callbacks to Multiversity, 52 and other Morrison comics, but the most surprising is that of the last page or so, a surprise appearance by the Primate Legion from the Gorilla Galaxy of the 853rd Century, from the pages of 1998's DC One Million 80-Page Giant, if I recall correctly.

As with almost all of the other tie-ins to Metal, there's a sense that this is just filler or, put more kindly, texture; nothing in this issue is necessarily important to the series itself (at least, not so far), and it is just the sort of thing that, were Metal Morrison's own comic, he wouldn't spend space on, but instead suggest that such things were happening and leave it to the reader to imagine what goes on in-between story beats. That said, it is of course fun filler/texture, with a few touches that bring it in line with a DC "crisis" comic, like when a version of The Flash Barry Allen heroically sacrifices his life, telling another version, "There's always a sacrifice."

Thursday, February 15, 2018

On Sideways #1


...Yeah, sorry guys, I can't do it. My plan was to read and review at least the first issue of each of DC's "The New Age of DC Heroes" books, but I just can't bring myself to read this one. I like artist Kenneth Rocafort's work okay, although the relatively few books of his I've read haven't given me any reason to suspect that he's got a great new superhero concept in him and the storytelling chops to make a great comic book about that hero. The press release-articulated premise even shows some promise: "During the events of Dark Nights: Metal, high shcool junior Derek James accidentally fell through a rift into the dark matter dimension...In Sideways, he can create rifts in midair to leap through dimensions at will." Given the vast canvas of the DC Multiverse, that concept could be fun, at least for a certain kind of reader; is Derek James going to be DC's answer to Marvel's Blink...?

Still, try as I might, I just couldn't get by that single, poisonous credit on the cover: DiDio. This book is co-written by DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Dan DiDio.

There is something incredibly gross about DiDio, inarguably one of the most powerful and influential individuals in the North American, direct market-focused comic book industry, co-writing a high-profile comic book that is meant to be part of a new line, spinning out of a very successful miniseries. Actually, there are probably a lot of incredibly gross things about it, but it says one of two things to me, either of which is so icky I can't really sit down to try to read a 20-page comic book with such thoughts in my skull (And besides, I just got Green Lantern: Kyle Ranyer Vol. 1 and Superboy Vol. 1; I'm more than set with DC super-comics to escape into during my free time).

Here's one reading of DiDio co-writing Sideways, with Rocafort and Justin Jordan. From his place of power within his version of the comics industry, DiDio looked out all across the landscape for potential writers for a particular DC comic he knew was coming up on the schedule--current DC writers, former ones who could probably use a little work, new up-and-comers like those from the workshops DC has had the last few years, artist who would like to dabble in writing, Marvel writers who aren't on exclusive contracts, accomplished writers in other fields with an interest in comics, promising talent from the world of indie, self-published, online and mini-comics--and he decided that, out of all the possibilities, the very best candidate for the job would be he, himself.

That's no way to run a comics publisher, is it? Not only is it a complete waste of a valuable-ish gig, it demonstrates a lack of good taste, a lack of humility and a lack of understanding of your readership (He's hardly the first editor to write while in the position of relative power within one of the big two, but, unlike, say, Stan Lee or Jim Shooter or Archie Goodwin or Denny O'Neil, DiDio doesn't actually have a decent body of work that he didn't assign to himself, nor does he have anything in the way of a fanbase, or people who buy comics because his name is on them).

The other possible reading is that, from his place of power within his version of the comics industry, DiDio looked out all across the landscape for potential writers for a particular DC comics he knew was coming up on the schedule, and though he saw dozens, scores, even hundreds of potential writers who weren't looking back at him from his bathroom mirror every morning, he couldn't find any of them who actually wanted to work for him, work for DC Comics, or work on this Canceled-On-Arrival book starring what appears to be Blink-By-Way-Of-Spider-Man created by an untested artist. While that seems likely, it is a real possibility that the publisher could have trouble finding writing talent to work for them instead of any of the other, direct market publishers, or a prose publishing house with its own graphic novel imprints, or for themselves. There are lots of reasons that this unlikely-sounding possibility could be, from reservations about the culture of DC Comics to writers simply preferring to work on stuff they themselves own, but I have to wonder how DC's current publishing strategy of trolling-one-of-their-most-valuable-writers-ever-for-no-apparent-reason* is perceived by writers who consider working for the publisher in the future.

Those things--the culture at DC, the publisher's perception among writing talent, etc--are also things that are at least partially under DiDio's control.

So, beyond the fact that I never really enjoyed a DiDio-written comic for its writing--the Metal Men feature in Wednesday Comics is the only one I can recall enjoying reading, but then, that strip was quite elegantly drawn by José Luis García-López and inked Kevin Nowlan, so it almost couldn't have been anything other than enjoyable to read--it's hard to see his last name on the cover of this book and not think that it's very presence represents a failure to make good comics.

Anyway, that's why I'm not reviewing Sideways #1.


On The Silencer #1

On Damage #1

*While I think doing Doomsday Clock is as dumb as it is crass and creatively bankrupt, the one argument that anyone (probably an asshole) could make for doing it--retroactively, of course--is that it so far seems like it is a sales success. By the standards of a comic book miniseries in 2018. Not by the standards of, say, Watchmen. I cannot, on the other hand, imagine what the fuck DC was thinking by tossing Promethea into Justice League of America this week, or Tom Strong into the upcoming "New Age of Bloodlines" series The Terrifics. Look at the most recent sales charts analysis; JLoA sells less than 30,000 issues a month and is dropping...likely headed towards cancellation anyway, as there's a franchise refresh on the horizon. Even if there were thousands of Promethea fans out there who like the character, dislike her creators and are willing to buy appearances featuring her by other creators just because they love her so much (and there aren't), even if that doubles the sales of JLoA for a month or two, what does that really give DC? that sells about 60,000 units for a month or so before plummeting back down to the mid-twenties again...? Is that really worth all the drama of pissing off/alienating Moore, J.H. Williams III, fans of either of them...? I can't imagine how one justifies these ABC characters showing up in these DCU books that makes a lick of sense.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: February 7th

Batman #40 (DC Comics) This is the concluding chapter of writer Tom King's two-part Wonder Woman team-up, a story that was uncomfortably close to one Joe Kelly's "Immortal Beloved" in 200'0's Action Comics #761 featuring Superman and Wonder Woman a while back. I don't think King was lying when he said that he accidentally wrote the same story, having never read Kelly's, and I imagine he was genuinely mortified when dozens of people started pointing that out to him, but I still kind of can't believe that it ever even happened at all.

If King himself had missed the 18-year-old Superman story, if the artist and colorist and letterer didn't notice the similarities because they too hadn't read it, you have to assume that someone somewhere at DC Comics would have noticed. If not the editors on Batman, is there not someone at DC whose job it is to Google plots and make sure no one else already told almost the exact same story with in the last ten or twenty years...? Like, an intern? Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have been around so damn long now, that it's not unimaginable that more than one writer will come up with the same idea for some of them; DC really should get someone whose job it is to check that sort of thing.

And it really is a rather similar story, as the second half reveals, with Bruce and Diana not hooking up, just as Clark and Diana did not hook up in "Immortal Beloved." Diana perhaps comes out better this time around, as she and Bruce simultaneously realize that they can't do this because not only would it be unfair to their significant others, but because they are just too good of friends at this point; in the earlier story, it was Superman rebuffed Wonder Woman.

And, accident or not, it does show a certain degree of creative bankruptcy, if a second male writer, completely independently of the other, decides to do a Wonder Woman team-up, and the story that comes to mind is to tempt his male hero with a sexual encounter with Wonder Woman, using the hero's ability to resist her feminine charms as a device to illustrate his virtue.

Ugh, the more I think about this story, the more gross it seems...

Pretty stellar artwork from Joelle Jones and colorist Jordie Bellaire go a long way toward making this an enjoyable read, however.

Bombshells United #11 (DC) Hmm...

You know, I think I may be done with Bombshells. There's nothing particularly bad about or wrong with this issue, just as there hasn't been anything particularly bad or wrong with any of the previous issues in this particular story arc, but I feel like I've gotten to the point with the series where I got with Lumberjanes. Every issue wasn't bad, but it also wasn't better than good, and wasn't doing anything on a monthly basis that justified paying for and reading it in that fashion rather just waiting to check it out in library trade a few times a year.

Like Lumberjanes, the relaunched Bombshells has had arcs that tend to go on an issue or two too long (there have only been two arcs since the relaunch, and we're already up to issue #11). I suppose it doesn't help that we've gotten pretty far from the ships-fight-World War II premise, and this particular arc has been dominated by characters, concepts and storylines I've seen more than enough of in the regular DCU--Talia al Ghul, Lazarus Pits, Black Adam, his attempts to bring Isis back to life...

I don't know. I just get less and less out of each issue. Maybe writer Marguerite Bennett will introduce Cassandra Cain's Black Bat--teased in an earlier issue of the series--and Marguerite Sauvage will come back to draw before I get around to dropping the book from my pull...

Justice League #38 (DC) Okay, not only have I got no idea why Flash's eyes are glowing and his face looks purple--I thought he was Eclipsed at first, but I guess maybe he's just suffering from oxygen deprivation--but I can't even begin to guess what is up with his torso. I haven't been reading The Flash, but I thought Barry Allen was still a police scientist; is he a competitive bodybuilder now...?

Marco Santucci joins writer Christopher Priest--who seems to have changed his name again to just "Priest," based on the credits--for this issue, which continues to focus on the turmoil within the League, as the characters who aren't Green Lanterns express their disappointment in Batman as chairman. The action centerpiece, the thing on the cover, involves The Flash trying to rescue someone in space.

There's a lot of science--or, at least, comic book science--in some extremely wordy pages, as Barry thinks his way through how to use his powers in space to save someone without dying himself, but that's the trick with Flash's powers. As with Superman, it can be very difficult to write them being used in such a way that a few panels of drawings can explain.

There's a weird bit where Aquaman shows up wearing his old blue water camouflage costume, not seen in a long, long time, and no one at all comments on it. Maybe this is the arc's villain "The Fan" impersonating Arthur, but it's bizarre that such a big and obvious tell isn't brought up and dismissed by the characters.

Oh, and there's also something weird involving Bruce Wayne that seems to contradict the goings-on in Batman, and is especially interesting read during the same week that he almost kisses Wonder Woman but refrains from doing so at the last second, but I suppose we can put that down to this Justice League arc having occurred before his engagement to Selina Kyle...

Nightwing #38 (DC) Writer Sam Humphries seems to have a decent grasp on Nightwing's fan base. This issue includes a scene where Dick Grayson pretends to be a stripper, and is dancing around in his underwear while women stuff bills into them. 

Snotgirl #9 (Image Comics) Lottie and the Hater's Club are at a fancy hotel in the desert for Thankstravaganza, an "annual festival for us influencers" put on by some of the big brands. It was nice to see the girls all in close proximity, and without much in the way of interference from the male characters. The change of setting, in short, was refreshing.

Also, Lottie meets a rather vapid ghost that is apparently obsessed with Rihanna.

Swamp Thing: Winter Special #1 (DC) This prestige format 80-page giant--it even says that on the cover!--is pretty pricey at $7.99, but also worthwhile. It serves a dual purpose of honoring the late, great Len Wein by publishing the last comic he was working on for DC (as well as a few other little tributes to him) and offering an original story starring Wein's most famous DC Comics creation from currently hot writer Tom King and artist Jason Fabok.

Let's start with the King/Fabok story, as that's what the book starts with, and what is on the cover. It is a pretty great, 40-page Swamp Thing story, in which the monster hero is wanders through a blizzard, attempting to carry a little boy to safety, while struggling with his memory and dwindling powers and abilities, as the cold and snow muffle the power of the plant life.

King is an extremely interesting super-comics writer to read, because he is obviously very talented, and attracted to rather formal, showy structures in his comics scripts, but he also often makes curious decisions, and takes storytelling shortcuts. He's one of the few mainstream comics writers whose work I regularly encounter and end up metaphorically applauding while metaphorically rolling my eyes every few pages.

Here the curious decisions include opening and closing the story by allowing readers to "overhear" sports talk radio in which the host discusses a Gotham Knights quarterback's poor performance during a game against the New Orleans Saints. The content of what is discussed kinda sorta relates to the story, but nothing would be lost without it, and it's just a weird fit with the rest of the story, as there's nothing involving football, sports, games, competition or radio in the story. It is a little speech that comes out of nowhere.

The other is a "twist" that I suspect most readers will guess before they hit the halfway mark, one telegraphed by rather inelegant uses of "Later" to denote the passage of time, something that could just as easily have been denoted by the artwork, were the book scripted and/or drawn a little differently.

Over all though, it was a pretty solid Swamp Thing-as-horror comic protagonist story (I don't think he had to kill that bear though, given his powers; I realize the scene is there to demonstrate something that will be key later, but that demonstration could have come when he faced the human killer.)

I'm not, in general, a fan of Jason Fabok's work, although this made me think about why, as it is very strong work. It is certainly the first Fabok-drawn comic I took note of as being really good. He does a fine job of translating some very weird uses of Swamp Thing's weird powers--like the bit where he starts a fire, for example, or acts as a fallen log-style bridge to help the boy cross a crevasse--and his ornate style is well-suited for a character that can be drawn in almost endless detail.

I liked this much better than the last King-written Swamp Thing story I read, Batman #23, in large-part because Fabok's art is much more traditional and better-suited to the subject matter than King's partner on that story (and other works), Mitch Gerards. (Reading this did make me wonder if DC should talk to King about a Brave and The Bold series, given his team-ups between Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman and Swamp Thing, and his evident interest in DC characters as disparate as Swamp Thing and Mister Miracle).

That's followed by a two-page "editor's note" from Rebecca Taylor about Wein, and why and how they were presenting his last comic here and in this manner. It was to be the first issue of a sequel to his recent-ish miniseries with Kelley Jones. Wein finished scripting it--the eight-page script follows the comic--but he didn't finish the "lettering script," so what they print is Jones' inked and colored finish art, sans any dialogue or sound-effects. This is actually a rather poignant last work from Wein, which Taylor sets up by noting that "No one wrote Swamp Thing like Len," and so they didn't bother to have someone else finish that script; in a real sense, then, Swamp Thing is silenced in this story. (I suppose we could question pairing the comic with a story twice its length written by someone else, but I imagine DC decided the best way to get people to pick up the Wein/Jones comic was give readers a King/Fabok one to entice them to do so.)

Interestingly, it's actually pretty clear what is going on in the story even without dialogue. Especially if you've read very many Batman comics, for example, and then it's clear that if Commissioner Gordon goes off to stand in the dark away from a crime scene by himself for a few panels, then he's probably talking to Batman, even if we can't see Batman or overhear their dialogue (Batman appears; but not until the final page splash reveal).

The story involves a Gotham City kidnapping carried out by Solomon Grundy, which is why Gordon and Batman get involved. Jones doesn't disappoint with his insane artwork. He's particularly adept at depicting the way Swamp Thing emerges from plant life to appear somewhere far away, and I really liked the panel of Swampy retreating into the potted plant here, too.

There's also perhaps the most amazing, over-the-top sequence in which Batman captures a pair of thugs and blows up two boats using only a couple of extremely well-aimed batarangs, a scene that may be the best scene depicting batarang usage of all time, and then there's this:
Yes, that's Swamp Thing water skiing on a lily pad.

The rest of the book is filled with reprintings of tributes to both Wein and his Swamp Thing co-creator Bernie Wrightson, including a Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez image of Wein with his co-creations Swamp Thing and Wolverine.

Young Monsters In Love #1 (DC) DC's Valentine's Day special takes an interesting tack this year, narrowing things down from the too-broad concept of "romance" to something more specific, "romance among monsters." While the definitions are loose (of these "young" monsters, at least three are specifically called out within the stories within for being centuries old, and they count Deadman, Monsieur Mallah and The Brain as monsters), it's a pretty smart move, one which allows for stories featuring many relatively little seen characters, and contributions from a few of my favorite DC artists, past or present.

I'm not quite sure why it costs $9.99 though; like the Swamp Thing special, it says "80-Page Giant" right there on the cover, but it lacks a spine, and is still two bucks more. Of course, it has more comics content within, but it's unusual for the Big Two to distinguish between comics and not-comics when doing their page-counts.

Anyway, let's look at this one at a time...

*"Nocturnal Animal" by Kyle Higgins and Kelley Jones

Cover artist Jones kicks the special off, marking the artist's second DC book of the week. It is a good week! Jones' Man-Bat, as previously, is big, hairy and scary, resembling a hulking version of a Rick Baker-designed movie werewolf with wings, his bearded face sometime looking skeletal depending on the angle. He spends most of the story on the ground, his wings barely visible, as he stoops and squeezes into panels mostly too small to contain him.

As in all of these stories, continuity is mostly shrugged at in favor of something more evergreen. I don't think this fits with what little we've seen of Man-Bat in the current, Flashpoint-born DC Universe, but I also don't think it much matters. Doctor Kirk Langstrom is trying to reconnect with his estranged wife Francine, who left him due to the fact that he occasionally turns into a giant were-bat monster. Throughout the story, Kirk sees and hears what is essentially an imaginary Man-Bat hovering above him, always trying to cajole him into taking the formula to become Man-Bat again.

Batman appears on the first splash page, and in maybe two other panels, part of Kirk's dream of being Man-Bat that opens the story. It was weird to see Jones drawing Batman's current costume, with the yellow-outlined bat-symbol and all the seams. He seems to have really toned down the ears and cape too, unfortunately.

*"Pieces of Me" by Tim Seeley, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Cam Smith

This is billed as "A Frankenstein Agent of SHADE" story, and finds the Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke-reimagined versions of Frankenstein and The Bride working under Father Time out of SHADE's Ant Farm base, as in the pages of the rather quickly cancelled New 52 book, Frankenstein Agent of SHADE book. They are on a mission to destroy robots that have been possessed by Satan--good job, writer Tim Seeley--although that mainly just gives them something to be doing while narration boxes are filled with a love letter than Frank wrote for his ex, romantically listing his various body parts and how they relate to her. Before he can even give her the letter, however, he realizes he lost her (apparently she is dating a female vampire now, I guess; so the cover is sort of accurate, just not the particular not-Frankenstein monster that she has wrapped her four arms around).

Camuncoli's art is pretty good here. It wasn't until the second page that I realized it was not Mahnke who was drawing it.

*"Buried On Sunday" by Mairghread Scott and Bryan Hitch and Andrew Currie

Superboy tags along with Superman as Solomon Grundy, the monster in this story, is allowed to visit the grave of his long, long dead wife. There's some fighting, but not much. Scott's read on Superman and the other members of his family seems spot on, but the thing that will stick with me most is the tie Grundy is wearing. I...don't understand it. For the longest time I just assumed the ragged clothing he was wearing was the clothes that he woke up with, but that tie seems way, way too new, too modern and it's still tied perfectly. So I guess he's changed clothes since he's come back to life. And tied that tie with his big fat fingers, somehow. Yes, that image of Solomon Grundy's tie may actually haunt me.

*"The Dead Can Dance" by Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing and Javier Fernandez

Co-writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing put Raven in a short story named after the Australian/British dark wave band, opening with a panel by artist Javier Fernandez that echoes one of the most famous images of The Exorcist.

It is, apparently, Valentine's Day, and we learn that her teammates have completely forgotten poor Raven, so she devotes herself to some supernatural investigation, as she's called to a house to deal with a resident ghost. She manages to put it to rest by fulfilling a wish of its, which also allows her to indulge in an appropriately spooky Valentine's Day activity.

It's a shame the art's not more clear, though, as the ghost is of a teenage boy and is supposed to be cute, but it's impossible to tell that by looking at the drawings of him.

*"Be My Valentine" by Paul Dini and Guillem March

EDILW favorite Guillem March does such a good job of evoking the style of Neal Adams, the artist most associated with Deadman, throughout this short Deadman story that when flipping through the book, I actually thought it was Adams who had drawn this story.

Writer Paul Dini crafts a story involving a grade school Valentine's party that almost went tragically wrong because of the actions of a bully. Using his possession powers, Deadman is able to save a kid's life, and then try to turn life around for a couple of other kids.

*"Heart-Shaped Box" by Mark Russell and Frazer Irving

And it's the second appearance by Swamp Thing in this week's batch of comics. Here he is drawn by Frazer Irving, who draws him as a man-shaped bush, almost always shrouded-in-shadow, save for his red eyes. A lot happens in such a short story, as Swamp Thing finds a new love and loses her, as well as exacting a rather cruel, but non-lethal vengeance on those that have wronged the pair of them. Interestingly, the final series of images are the exact same as those in the Swamp Thing: Winter Special.

*"Visibility" by Steve Orlando and Nic Klein

Given writer Steve Orlando's affection for the DC Comics work of Grant Morrison, it is perhaps unsurprising that his contribution to this anthology is an eight-page extrapolation of a joke from Morrison's script for 1990's Doom Patrol #34. That was the issue in which prominent members of the Silver Age Doom Patrol's mortal enemies The Brotherhood of Evil, disembodied brain The Brain and intelligent super-gorilla Monsieur Mallah, confessed their love for one another just before they were destroyed in an explosion.

At the time, the scene struck teenage Caleb as funny for just how weird and out-of-left-field it was, but then, that Caleb was still using "gay" as a catchall negative slang word (You know, "That movie was so gay," etc). Looking back, I guess that's pretty much what Morrison was doing with the story; it was a throwaway gay joke. That was the punchline: Ha ha, the disembodied evil brain and the evil super-gorilla with the beret on are totally gay for each other.

The scene stuck and became canon, and in most of their appearances since, the pair have been portrayed as romantically involved (Hell, Wikipediea refers to Monsieur Mallah as "the criminal and romantic partner of the Brain).

I suppose one could read this story as act of reclaiming negative portrayals of gay DC Comics characters from the late 20th century, similar to the way Orlando cast Extrano in a small role in his Midnighter comics (where he was essentially just a DC Doctor Strange).  On the other hand, given Orlando's buttressing of his comics by Morrison characters and concepts (and those of other writers working at DC in the 1990s), it could also just be seen as one more example of his homaging a favorite writer.

There's probably an essay to be written about how this pair of minor villains went from a ignorant gay joke to being among DC's recognizable out and gay characters--not the title of this story--but I'm certainly not the one to write that essay. Speaking of such characters, the plot here is that Mallah has taken hostages at a Lexcorp facility and is attempting to steal a doohickey that will restore The Brain's vision. The police negotiator? Maggie Sawyer.

*"The Turning of Deborah Dancer" by Alisa Kwitney and Stephanie Hans

This is an "I, Vampire" story, and as I have never read any such stories featuring the Andrew Bennett character before, I'm ill-equipped to appreciate this one. It seems to be following the recent New 52 series, as Andrew is portrayed as younger and sexier, and some past continuity is referred to.

Anyway, Andrew and his friend Deborah are investigating a killing, and get attacked by a vampire, which artist/colorist Stephanie Hans has drawn the hell out of.

Then they go off to have a bunch of sex. The end.

*"To Hell and Gone" by Phil Hester and Mirko Colak

I like Phil Hester's art so much that I'm always a little disappointed to see his name show up under "Writer." That's not to say there's anything wrong with his writing of course, this is a fine story, I would just prefer to see his writing paired with his drawing, you know?

I got a very Alan Grant/Garth Ennis vibe from this Demon story, in which Etrigan storms a particular part of hell in order to destroy a particular artifact for a particular reason. That sounds vague but, well, it's an eight-page story, so I wouldn't want to spoil what's in it.

I wasn't particularly enamored with artist Colak's Etrigan design; he looks like a pretty standard orange-skinned, nub-horned orc or ogre type, wearing his traditional costume. He's a very fun character to draw, and to look at drawings of, and this particular take wasn't as spectacular as those of many of the other artists to have drawn the Kirby-created horror hero.

Colorist Mike Spicer gives everything a warm, muted look that feels elegiac, and far from the expected cartoon bright colors or overwhelming darks one might normally associate with the character and his adventures.

*"Dear Velcoro" by James Robinson and John McCrea

You know who is probably my favorite Etrigan, The Demon artists? Why, John McCrea, who enjoyed a short run on The Demon with Garth Ennis and drew him in the "Ace of Killers " arc of Hitman (a story which Orlando plucked a few things from to use in his aforementioned Midnighter comics).

And here's McCrea! So that's Kelley Jones, John McCrea and Guillem March, all between the same set of covers. That's a pretty successful anthology in my book.

This is a Creature Commandos story, one using the original iteration of the characters and set during World War II. They are on a mission to take out Nazi-built killer robots, but in-between Vincent (the vampire) and Warren (the werewolf) have a heart-to-heart about Vince's girl back home.

 McCrea is great at drawing werewolves.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Bumblebee and Killer Moth fight over buttlerflies.

I was pleasantly surprised by the first of Shea Fontana and Yancey Labat's DC Super Hero Girls original graphic novels, all of which to date have been very well-made and offered more than enough Easter Eggy content to engage a middle-aged DC Comics fan like me. That said, I would have totally ignored this book, DC Super Hero Girls: Butterfly Battle by writer Courtney Carbone and illustrator Pernille Orum-Nielsen if I could have, because a) It's totally not meant for me at all and b) it feels kind of cruel to critique a book in the "Step Into Reading" program, which encourages kids to read (This is, by the way, a "Step 3" book, meaning it has engaging characters, easy-to-follow plots and popular the escapades of Killer Moth. There is no topic more popular among children who are ready to read on their own than what hijinks moth-themed criminal Drury Walker is getting up to!).

But come one--how could I not devote the three-to-five minutes of my time it took to read this? It's Bumblebee vs. Killer Moth, with space butterflies as the prize!

The premise is familiar from all those graphic novels I mentioned previously. If you're not familiar with the toy-line-turned-all-around-lucrative-IP, it imagines many of DC's superheros as teenagers attending Super Hero High School in Metropolis, where Amanda Waller is principal and various villains and Golden Agers are on the faculty. A clique of heroines serve as the main characters.

In this background-free story, "Bumbelee is giving a presentation in science class about alien butterflies." A breed of alien butterflies called "Space monarchs" apparently visit earth once a century--and they are headed to Metropolis right now. Everyone, the book says, was excited:
I don't know. "Excited" isn't a word I would use to describe Killer Frost in the above image.

But maybe that's just the way Killer Frost always looks. She has the same expression on the next page, and later when she is incapacitated by a villain and everyone else is freaking out. (Oh, by the way, apparently Killer Frost is just "Frost" in the Super Hero Girls-iverse; I guess "Killer" is a little too hardcore for the target audience? The last OGN in the line I read, Date With Disaster, listed her simply as "Frost" on the opening spread introducing the cast). It makes me wonder if they will go ahead and call Killer Moth "Killer Moth" or...just...Moth? That doesn't sound quite right. Of course, "Killer Moth" probably doesn't sound right to most people either.

As everyone is enjoying the butterflies, "the Mothwing," a moth-themed plane descends: "And that means Killer Moth!" Batgirl, in her stupid hoodie, says. Huh. Well I guess they can say "Killer" sometimes...
No comment.

Killer Moth then busts out his butterfly net and...begins collecting butterflies...? Is that illegal? Is that a crime? Are Space monarchs an interplanetary protected species or something? Look how happy the guy looks!
Bumblebee shrinks down to bee-size, gets herself scooped up in his net and brought aboard his ship, and then she grows back to girl size and blows open his ship, freeing the butterflies and kicking his ass.

Look how happy she looks to be about to punch Killer Moth in the face!
Punching Killer Moth makes Bumblebee feel the way that collecting butterflies makes Killer Moth feel.

The day saved, I guess, Amanda Waller delivers a pun so terrible I think she should have a tiny bomb implanted in her brain, which can be detonated if she ever makes a joke that bad again. She tells the girls, "I'm nominating you all for..."
Look at Babs grabbing her stomach like it was so funny that she might burst from laughter. What a brown-noser.


I reviewed Papercutz's translation of French comics creators Arnaud Plumeri and Bloz's Les Dinosaures series for Good Comics For Kids the other day. The resultant four books--now entitled Dinosaurs--is far from perfect. Like so many of Paperctuz's translated works, I would personally prefer a larger size, since I have big man hands and an enfeebled, middle-aged mind, but I suppose the reduced size of what were presumably once European-sized comics are just fine for the hands, eyes and brains of children. And as I mentioned in the review, not all of the gags land, sometimes because of what seems like awkward translation--or the simple fact that humor doesn't always translate from culture to culture--and sometimes because the jokes just aren't funny. The above one, which is the climax of a strip which began with the two little green dinosaurs laughing at Carnotaurus' tiny little arms when they saw him waving at another dinosaur, isn't necessarily the best or most funny of the gags, but it's probably the one that surprised me most.

If you like comics and dinosaurs as much as I do, then you'll definitely want to check the series out.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

On The Silencer #1

*Just like the previous of DC's "New Age of Heroes" books, Damage #1, the first issue of The Silencer features "Dark Nights Metal" n the blue tier of the corner box, the space which indicates which family of books individual titles are part of.

And just like the first issue of Damage, The Silencer doesn't have any apparent connection to the events of Dark Nights: least, not the issues of Metal that have shipped to date, #1-#5. So if Damage and The Silencer and the other "New Age of Heroes" books are going to be Metal spin-offs, then there are either going to be a lot of set-up in that sixth and final issue of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's event series, or else these books are going to have to do something in future issues to retroactively tie-in to Metal. (The one exception among the announced "New Age" books seems to be The Terrifics, as 50% of that book's stars have been prominently featured in Metal, and the fifth issue of the series starts to reveal how it ties in; I suppose there's a good chance Immortal Men will be a clear tie-in too, as a group of immortals played a small role in Metal near the beginning).

*I figured this vertical gatefold cover out very quickly, after struggling a bit with the one on Damage. It's an awkward space to fill with art, really.--I'm not sure why they didn't go horizontal, which is the sort of space comics artists and readers are more familiar with--but artist and character co-creator John Romita JR did a pretty good job of filling that space; much better than Tony S. Daniel did. Romita has  the title character in the center of the image; the space below her is filled with a pile of dead ninjas, which she is standing atop, and the space above her is filled with more, live ninjas raining down on her.

Now that I've seen two, I guess I understand the image on the other side of the cover as well (part of what confused me with the Damage cover was that it looked like three un-related images by Daniel, while the back was a portion of another image). The back of each cover are portions of an image previously seen in promotional material showing many of the characters from the "New Age" line standing side by side. I guess you can collect them all, tear the covers of, put them together like a puzzle, and BAM! you have a poster.

Also, as I previously mentioned, I am dumb, which contributed to my bafflement about the covers.

*After the three-panel, in medias res opening page, there's a heavily narrated seven-page sequence, much of which appeared in previews in the back of previous DC comics, in which Honor Guest is confronted by a cyborg tough named Killbox. It's a pretty flinchily violent scene involving a fistfull of sharpened pencils--I woulda jumped in my seat if I saw it in a movie--but aside from her ass-kicking abilities, The Silencer has a kind of cool, rather unusual super-power, too; one I don't think I've ever seen before.

When she puts her fingers to her lips and goes "Shh," she's surrounded by a sizable field in which there's no sound; this lasts until she snaps her fingers.

 I wasn't sure if there was more to it too, given that it looks like she's embedding her hands fingers deep into Killbox while, um, killing him, but that was likely just the way JR JR is drawing the violence, with people's fingers and fists striking so hard they seem to smoosh or even enter the body of their victims..

*Pasta fagioli is one of my favorites. My mom, my late grandfather, my friend's mom, a local restaurant in my home town, the folks that make it for the churches in Ashtabula to sell on Fridays during Lent, they all make it completely differently, and yet they all make very good pasta fagioli. I'm sure someone somewhere makes terrible pasta fagioli, but I've yet to find it.

This may be the first time I've seen it mentioned in a comic book, but it could also simply be that I have forgotten prior mentions of it in comic books.

*I was somewhat surprised to see Talia al Ghul show up. As drawn, in business suit, she's completely unrecognizable. JRJR draws her so that she looks exactly like Honor Guest, only with white skin and brown hair instead of brown skin and blonde hair.

DC has done a good job of keeping Joker appearances rare and fairly consistent, particularly in comparison to years past, but at the same time they seem to have really lost control of other Bat-villains. Ra's al Ghul and Talia al Ghul are good examples, as they seem to show up pretty much anywhere any bat-related character appears--and that's a lot of different comic books--and there's little evidence that the editors and writers are keeping track of them in even the most cursory ways.

For example, this Talia, in both appearance and status, doesn't really seem to match the one we've seen just four or five issues of Batman ago.

*Leviathan, the organization she lead in the pages of Grant Morrison's Batman comics, which awkwardly span the Flashpoint/New 52 reboot, is mentioned.

*Killbox is followed by two more assassins with dumb names, Bloodvessel and Breacher. None of them survive the issue, so the dumbness of their names isn't really anything to be concerned with, I guess.

*Talia gives Honor some kind of disc-shaped gadget which she only reluctantly takes and I guess it is her costume...? In disc-form? We barely see it in this issue, as she only dons it at the climax, but it's pretty lame-looking (you can see it in the "New Age" house ad; she's the character in profile you can't recognize, because she's wearing a mask she lacks on the cover of The Silencer).

I'm so used to that cover image at this point, that I was surprised to learn she even has a costume. Having seen it in a couple different places so far, I think it's probably better than she not have one. I suppose it could grow on me, though.

*Hey, guess what? This comic book contains no splash pages at all! Not a one! In fact, the fewest number of panels per page in this book is three, and some pages have as many as seven panels. There are several passages with a six-panel grid lay-out. This is in sharp contrast to the first "New Age" book released, which had a gratuitous amount of page real estate wasted on multiple splash pages and double-page splashes.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Comics Shop Comics: January 31st

Dark Nights: Metal #5 (DC Comics) It's not too terribly surprising to hear that Scott Snyder will be heavily involved in whatever is happening next with DC's Justice League franchise (details are still pretty scant; all that has been announced so far is a weekly miniseries and a few participating writers, with no mention of the artists involved or how many books and who will be doing what to follow*). After all, for all its promotion, and all of its (too) many tie-ins, Metal is basically just a Justice League story with a few big, interesting ideas thrown in there (and as someone who started reading Justice League comics when Grant Morrison, Howard Porter and John Dell launched JLA, I've always thought "a few big, interesting ideas" was the baseline for what all Justice League stories should involve). I haven't read all of those tie-ins yet (I plan to catch up in trade later), but the ones I have read seemed mostly unimportant, even trivial, and once you divorce those from Metal, what you're left with is a big story posing an existential threat to the DC Universe--hell, the DC Multiverse--that is addressed by the Justice League recruiting some allies, splitting up into different teams and then attacking elements of the problem. It's not hard to see this as a modern version of an old Silver Age or Satellite Era novel-length adventure, a "Crisis In The Dark Multiverse!" sort of story.

In fact, this issue doesn't do anything to change that. The various "teams" continue on their missions, meeting new characters along the way. Batman and Superman are at the cosmic Forge of Worlds with the corrupted Hawkman. Aquaman and Deathstroke are at the center of the Earth. Green Lantern Jordan, Mister Terriffic and Plastic Man-in-static-"egg"-form are on a Thanagar, where they get an assist from Martian Manhunter in fighting Starro and Onimar Sinn. Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl Kendra Saunders are at The Rock of Eternity, fighting with Black Adam. Everyone is on the ropes, as one would expect from the penultimate issue of the series, and the various nightmare Batmen appear to snatch victory from the hands of the League teams, as the Morrison-mapped Multiverse looks like it's about to be conquered by Morrison's bat-demon god. (Speaking of Morrison, Metal seems like a pretty good way to use the writer's past work to do something interesting and/or new. Snyder seems to be taking inspiration from past Morrison stories, and building on them, as opposed to what his fellow DC writer Steve Orlando, for example, has been doing, which is basically just taking Morrison creations that he likes and presenting them in his work, as if their presence alone gives value to a story).

As a Plastic Man fan, I was most interested in the bit where Mr. Terrific explains Plas' role in the story and, curiously, his origin. Dan Jurgens drew Plas into a Justice League International image in the early days of the New 52, implying that the character existed already in the New 52-iverse (He did the same with The Creeper). Then Geoff Johns presented a version of Plas' origin during Forever Evil, and...non one ever did anything with it.

Snyder seems to imply that Plas has been around for a while. Here's Mister Terrific explaining Plas to Hal:
One night, he fell into a vat of chemicals. My best guess, some attempt by the owls or S.T.A.R. Labs to approximate cosmic metals.

Now his molecutlar structure changes with his desires. His body is a super-conductor for cosmic energies, which is why they're after him.

Since dark energy started rising, the nightmares of every living thing run through his head, trying to pull him toward evil.

As I said, he's still in egg form, so apparently he's not going to do anything before the final issue, where one assumes he will play an integral role. While reading this issue, I couldn't help but think how Snyder had the makings of a pretty damn good Justice League line-up, give or take a character, running throughout the series: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Cyborg, Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl and/or Hawkman, Plastic Man, Mister Terrific, Deathstroke, maybe Doctor Fate. I know that Plas and Mister Terrific won't end up on a League line-up, as they are one-half of DC's weird-looking Fantastic Four-esque series The Terrifics (which definitely would spin-out of Metal, unlike the first issues of Damage, The Silencer and Batman and The Signal, all of which had slugs on the cover suggesting they spun out of Metal despite any evidence of such in the first five issues of Metal or the first issues of those series).

DC Super Hero Girls: Date With Disaster (DC) I confess to finding this latest of Shea Fontana and Yancey Labat's Super Hero Girls original graphic novels somewhat disappointing, mainly because I was more interested in the dating than the disaster. I was promised Batgirl and friends trying to find a date for her dad, Commissioner Gordon, and while there is some of that in here, there is also a secret, STAR Labs program to create super-powered people, a villainous mayor and the introduction of Rampage and some Suicide Squad characters. I suppose it says more about my age that I am more interested in adult-dating than superhero fisticuffs at this point in my life but, on the other hand, even as a teenager I think I would have been more interested in the kids getting ready for the spring Winter Formal--Killer Frost is helping make it wintery--than the superhero business.

So there's a lot going on in this volume. Batgirl is upset that her dad went on a date with Silver St. Cloud--I'd say Bruce Wayne must be pissed, but I'm not sure there is a Bruce Wayne or a Clark Kent in the Super Hero Girls-iverse; I mean, Lois Lane goes to the dance with Barry Allen of all people!--so she sets up a dating profile for him in order to find him a better match (Spoiler alert: She finds him Plastique instead). Meanwhile, some of the girls are getting ready for the dance, which inspires a few of them to play matchmaker, trying to get Steve Trevor to ask Wonder Woman to the dance. Also meanwhile, Floyd Lawton is putting the moves on Principal Amanda Waller. And also also meanwhile, Dr. Kitty Faulkner of STAR Labs and the mayor are up to some suspicious stuff involving super-powers, and the secret-ish origin of this version of Poison Ivy. Also! Jimmy Olsen, Ron Troupe and Perry White are all in here, as Lois and the Planet-eers work angles of the STAR Labs story. Whew!

A few random thoughts:

--Commissioner Gordon apparently calls his daughter Barbara "Babsy Bear."

--Labat's version of Deadshot--I'm not sure if he's ever shown up in the animated incarnation of this IP or not--is pretty fantastic. As Floyd, his mustache makes look both cartoon dashing, like a caricature of Clark Gable, and silent movie villainous, which is pretty perfect for his role here. I also really dug this version of his costume, which is basically just de-cluttered and modernized version of the one he wore back in the 1980s, before there were different versions of Deadshot in differing media.

--The thought of him going on dates with Waller was pretty fun, considering the last time I've seen either of them were in the pages of John Ostrander and company's Suicide Squad Vol. 7: The Dragon's Hoard, and the two aren't exactly friendly in those comics, let alone romantic.

--"Giant Turtle Boy" has a two-page cameo. Also, Jimmy Olsen is a shitty journalist. Thank God Lois puts him in his place, re The Truth.

--Lois Lane is awesome, in almost any incarnation.

--I like how after Steve was all nervous about asking Wonder Woman to the dance, and how the matchmakers schemed and failed to get Steve to ask her, she just walks up and asks him herself. Oh, Wonder Woman.

--I was highly disappointed that no one wore dresses or suits to the dance, but just wore their normal clothes. Steve didn't even change out of his work clothes!

--It was pleasantly surprising to see same-sex couples in this. Bunker and Piper go to the dance together, apparently; they're not, like, slow-dancing and kissing or anything, but I suppose readers who are familiar with the characters from other comics who seem them standing side-by-side will put two and two together. Similarly, they do that thing where Harley and Ivy are probably dating without ever coming out and saying it. When characters mention that Harley, the head of the dance committee and one of the characters most invested in the match-making endeavors, didn't have time to find a date of her own, she throws an arm around her best friend and says, "I don't need a date! I got Ivy--"

--Gordon asks Waller to dance, and she shoots him down. Then he and Babs dance. Those things all make me uncomfortable.

Star Wars: Forces of Destiny--Rose & Paige (IDW Publishing) The fifth and final issue of IDW's weekly Forces of Destiny series features Rose Tico, the breakout star of The Last Jedi, played by the totally adorable and infectiously enthusiastic Kelly Marie Tran, and her sister Paige, who was briefly seen in the film's opening battle. In many respects, their story is similar to the one that was in the last issue of Star Wars Adventures I read, where Rose's smarts and the faith placed in her by her big sister and General Organa help her overcome the vocal doubting of a male superior and help her save the day.

Where it differs, and differs quite dramatically, is in its visuals. Derek Charm, an artist who I am an enormous fan of, drew the Adventures issue. This comics is drawn by Nicoletta Baldari, in an extremely lush, picture book-like style that, in the movement of the characters and the expressions on their faces, calls to mind a traditional 2D Disney animated movie. In fact, the art is really the best of both worlds, as it looks as thoroughly rendered as if it were created for a picture book, but is highly animated-looking, as if consisting of stills from a film.

Baldari is paired with prose and occasional comics writer Delilah S. Dawson, responsible for the recent pretty-dang-good Phasma prose novel and...the previously mentioned issue of Star Wars Adventures, which both explains and makes strange the similarities between these two stories.

The specifics of this one involve Leia conducting a Resistance meeting in which she asks her people for ideas on exploring a hard-to-explore planet in order, preferably one that doesn't involve their traditional vehicles. Rose comes up with what resemble a pair of fast-moving golf carts--they've got wheels! How primitive!--and she and Paige go exploring. When Paige's breaks down and she has an accident, Rose is forced into adventuring to save her sister. Along the way, she meets a particularly goofy-looking indigenous species that follows the obviously successful Porg formula of combining bird and mammal-like characteristics into a single animal.

I was much more interested in the art part of the equation in this book, but it's an all-around solid all-ages Star Wars comic, and, like the Leia one-shot, it's head-and-shoulders above the content Marvel has been publishing.

*Hopefully current Justice League writer Christopher Priest gets to keep doing what he's doing on one of the new League books, but given that that would be a great idea, I'm afraid it won't occur to those who make such decisions at DC.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: January 24th

Justice League #36 (DC Comics) Christopher Priest has written four issues of Justice League so far. I've had trouble reading it, despite being fairly on top of DC Comics. First I read the second issue, because I had missed the first issue. Then I read the fourth issue, having missed the third issue. Then I read the first issue. And this week, finally, I visited another comics shop and found and thus read the third issue. So I'm all caught up, I guess.

What was the problem? I suppose it was mostly the fact that I didn't add the title to my pull-list as soon as I heard Priest was taking over with a certain issue, and then, failing that, my inability to notice the book the week that Priest's run started.

Certainly the fact that there are more than one Justice League book and they aren't too terribly distinguishable in terms of their titles--Justice League and Justice League of America--was a factor, as was the bi-weekly shipping of Justice League, which makes it very easy to fall behind if you miss an issue. After I originally missed the boat, I probably should have just trade-waited the series, but I did want to vote with my dollars for Priest on the Justice League, as that is a very, very good idea that has thus far yielded very good results.

Anyway, this one was another very solid issue all on its own. The opening sequence, in which Superman is in congress while a congress lady speechifies at him, brought up unwanted memories of Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and the sequence at the end was super-strange--why did Simon go with that lady into the bathroom and let her open his shirt and kiss his chest, or was he purposely springing the trap to get caught?--but the bits with the submarine and Aquaman's dual status as a Justice Leaguer and the king of a sovereign nation were all pretty interesting. Those sorts of conversations about jurisdiction and politics and charters and suchlike? I love that stuff. It's really too bad none of that is ever established in a clear way, but seems to fluctuate, depending on who is writing the book at a particular time. Like, even the fact that Batman is the leader of the League seems like a new invention of Priest's for this run.

In general, if there was a clearly established status quo of some sort, than stories that use that status quo as their starting point would have much more resonance.

Pete Woods drew this issue.

Predator: Hunters (Dark Horse Books) The simplicity of the Predator concept makes it one that is endlessly adaptable and riff-uponable, one that is perhaps perfect for comic book crossovers. Nigh unstoppable, mysterious alien big-game hunters who travel to earth in order to hunt the most dangerous prey and...that's it, really. Change the setting and the opponents, and Predator comics are essentially infinite. The one problem that quickly presents itself, however, is that it can be something of a challenge to keep doing those stories forever, and each new adaptation crosses another setting off the list of potential stories (And, additionally, after seeing Predator fight Batman, Superman Judge Dredd and the cast of Archie Comics, well, a guest star-free outting can lose some of its razzle dazzle).

For the five-issue miniseries Predator: Hunters, which could really lose the semi-colon for a more accurate title, writer Chris Warner has upended the original film's the-hunters-have-become-the-hunted premise, which just about every sequel and comics adaptation has riffed on, in an interesting way, the premise of this series being the-hunters-have-become-the-hunted-but-look-out-the-once-hunted-are-hunting-the-hunters-who-hunted-them. Or something like that.

A rich woman who belongs to a family that has hunted Predators since the 19th century--You know the story of Spring Heeled Jack? Actually a Predator--has assembled a sizable private operation devoted to finding and exterminating Predators whenever they arrive on Earth. In an interesting move, the woman, Jaya Soames, has assembled survivors from past attacks, some of which have delineated in past Dark Horse Predator comics, like 1992's Big Game andn 1993's Bad Blood (Soames' ancestor's meeting with a Predator occurred in 1997's Nemesis).

That Big Game survivor, Enoch Nakai, is our point-of-view character, and we follow his recruitment into Soames' organization and on their first big hunting trip. Reports of a Predator on a remote island in the South Pacific send them there, posing to the locals on a neighboring island as scientists. They find not one but four Predators there, and, gradually, a rather extraordinary story that once again reiterates an on-again, off-again theme of the Predator stories: That the alien hunters may seem monstrous, but nothing out-monsters humanity.

Francisco Ruiz Velasco provides the art, and it is pretty strong for the most part, although it is occasionally slightly glitchy, with panel-to-panel continuity errors, like in one panel a Predator might be holding a huge club, and in the next his hands are empty. Stuff lie that here and there.

I really liked the designs of these Predators, as their armor and masks are radically different than those of their predecessors, and there's a reason why provided, although I don't want to discuss it, as it's something of a spoiler. I will note, however, that it took me a few issues to remember that the Predators don't just wear their high-tech masks for show, but they actually have breathing apparatuses in them, as they can't breathe Earth's atmosphere for too long. So I guess they really should have been gasping and wheezing throughout this whole story.

Anyway, Warner has found some interesting areas to work in with this series, and it checks all the necessary Predator boxes while doing a few things that are either new or different, and the art is pretty good too.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #34 (DC) As is so often the case these days, the best versions of particular DC superhero concepts are the ones that writer Sholly Fisch and artist Dario Brizuela come up with in order for them to team-up with Scooby-Doo in Scooby-Doo Team-Up. This month, it's the Birds of Prey's turn.

This particular version of BOP features Batgirl and Black Canary (both dressed in the costumes they would have worn in, say, the late 1960s) and The Huntress (dressed, somewhat inexplicably, in her short-lived Jim Lee-designed crop top and booty-shorts costume from "Hush"), with a few panels worth of Lady Blackhawk.

When Gotham City is being terrorized by mythological birds, the Birds of Prey call upon the women of Mystery Inc to help them out, and Scooby comes along because, well, because his name is on the comic book, I guess. Fred and Shaggy appear on the first and last pages, book-ending Daphne and Velma's adventure with the Birds.

The mystery turns out to be ridiculously easy to solve--in fact, you've probably already guessed the perpetrator just by hearing about the theme of the crimes--and one wonders why Batgirl needed Daphne and Velma's help in the first place, but then, as is often the case with Scooby-Doo Team-Up, the plots are really only ever excuses to introduce, re-introduce and/or define various DC superhero characters by bouncing them off of the Scooby-Doo cast for about 20 pages.

Star Wars: Forces of Destiny--Hera (IDW PUblishing) Okay, I had to visit a second comic book shop in order to do so, but I finally got my hand's on last week's Forces of Destiny one-shot, which I was interested in more for the writer, Devin Grayson, than the title character. I used to really dig Grayson's writing on the various Batman and Titans related titles, and often when I read a particularly sub-par issue of a comic featuring those characters, I'll wonder where the hell Devin Grayson is, what she's doing and why she's not writing Detective Comics or Teen Titans or whatever.

This issue, while technically fine, isn't really that great, though.

Grayson teams with artist Eva Wildermann for a done-in-one story featuring Hera Syndulla, the Rebel Twi'lek pilot from the Star Wars: Rebels cartoon series (Cantankerous droid Chopper is the only other member of her crew featured, and he's there mainly to give her someone to talk to when she would otherwise have to be alone). The pair are on a mission to recruit an agricultural planet to take the rebels' side in the war, but the Empire beat them to it, so Hera and some sympathetic natives hatch a plan to make exploiting the planet seem like a lot more trouble than it's worth. Save for a climactic chase, it is mostly devoted to detailing Hera's plan to oppose the Empire by incremental resistance, as opposed to open warfare.

Widermann's art hews pretty close to the designs of the cartoon, although something feels slightly off about it, given the show's 3D imagery and the comic's flattening of the characters and milieu down to a more traditional 2D plane. While most of the characters are fairly familiar humans and alien types, one of the new characters that allies himself with Hera appears to be an anthropomorphic otter. Here he just looks like a cartoon character, like an extra from Disney's Robin Hood cast as an extra in this comic, but that sort of design reminded me a bit of Saga, where alien races so often resemble Earth animals on their hind legs.

The design of the imperious Imperial leader is pretty cool; he's blonde and has a little mustache that made me think of Princess Bride-era Cary Elwes.

As fits the character that inspired it, this issue struck me as even more kid-friendly than the Leia issue I had previously read; they are all all-ages, of course, but this one seemed more "for kids" than "all-ages," if that distinction makes sense.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Marvel's April previews reviewed

In the not-too-distant future, the world is a utopia where heroes have succeeded in bringing peace worldwide. At the head of this utopia is none other than Laura Kinney, who’s passed on her mantle of Wolverine and is living her best life as Madripoor’s benevolent queen. But a long simmering evil will force Laura, out of retirement and back into the blue-and-yellow. This final journey will take everything Laura has to give….maybe even her life.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Somehow we've gone from "New" to "All-New" to "All-New, All-Different" to "Old."

I'm not sure I like the sound of the "This final journey," given the fact that this month also features a solicit for the first issue of a series apparently devoted to returning the dead version of Logan to the land of the living. I haven't even had a chance to miss that version of Wolverine, what with Laura, Old Man Logan and even Ultimate Wolverine Jr. running around the Marvel Universe all this time.

That said, the fact that this story is set in the "not-too-distant future" means it could be a "final journey" for Laura Kinney without really impacting whether she is alive or dead or Wolverine or not in our present.

Damn, that hat is secure.

My initial to this funny-looking Darth Vader cover was to wonder about how he could float with all his robot parts and armor, but then I realized if I tried to make a dumb joke about it, someone would just point out that he's using the force so never mind.

That said, this probably the closest we'll ever come to a professionally produced image of what Vader would look like in a hot tub...

This is Michael Del Mundo's cover for Doctor Strange #388, and I am posting it here just to say that I think those dice are super cool.

Gail Simone (W) • DAVID BALDEON (A)
Cover by Greg Land & Frank D’armata
Impossible curves. Impossible shots. Impossible targets. Marvel’s #1 soldier of fortune is back in an explosive new ongoing series! The product of a failed super-soldier program, Neena Thurman always made her own luck as the sharpshooting mercenary known as Domino… but what happens when her own powers betray her? The hunter becomes the hunted as every mercenary in the game smells blood in the water! Plus: A pair of beloved Marvel characters return!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Huh. Greg Land is still getting work for some reason.

I may be wrong, but outside of the Conan/Wonder Woman crossover series, which is off in its own little crossover corner, I think this will be the first comic Simone has written for Marvel or DC for quite some time. The odds of it sticking around too long aren't great, particularly since it seems like it's being published solely because the character will be in a movie soon-ish, but provided Simone writes it evergreen enough, it won't hurt to have a Domino collection or three in the catalog.

Fan-favorite X-Man Blink once joined a team destined to save not just the world, but the entire Multiverse. And now, her teleporting talents are needed once again! When a mysterious threat begins eating away at the fabric of the Multiverse, the Unseen – the man once known as Nick Fury who now can only observe Earth from a lofty post on the moon – must recruit a champion to save it. But she can’t do it alone. Who will join Blink’s new team – and can they ever go home again?
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

As a guy who has never read an Exiles comic, I've detected at least two problems with the book, ones that may have held back the generally interesting premise.

The first is that because the book was always about alternate dimensions--characters coming from different dimensions, and then going into other dimensions to solve problems there--the book always had an aura of "none of this really counts for much," which isn't the sort of thing that mainstream comic book readers are interested in...certainly not as much as they are interested in "This stuff totally counts!' And since there was never an Exiles book out at a time when there were less than, like, a half-dozen other X-Men comics, well, the book's premise almost guaranteed that it would be at the bottom of most fans' shopping lists.

The second is that it was all X-Men related, and while other Marvel characters naturally were a part of the alternate dimension locales journeyed to in each story, the potentially wide remit of the book--"an infinite multiverse of alternate versions of the Marvel Universe...!"--was generally narrowed down to, "...but only as pertains to the X-Men!"

This book seems to solve that problem, as only two of the five characters on that cover seem to be mutants, and they are dealing with Old Nick Fury and there's not mention of X-Men and mutant business in the solicit, so that's cool.

Also cool? That the element about this new title seemingly getting the most attention is a version of Valkyrie that looks to be Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie from this year's Thor: Ragnarok imported into the cast. If it is the film character, or just someone who looks just like her, is, I suppose, a potentially big deal--I can't think of any other instance of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Marvel (comics) Universe explicitly crossing over.

It's maybe a little strange that they are doing this here, though, as it wouldn't exactly be difficult to introduce a Thompson-esque Valkyrie into the Marvel Universe. Valkyrie is, after all, just one character who uses a name that was assigned to many Asgardian warrior women. It's a job description more than a name, really.

As Brooklyn becomes vampire central, Deacon Frost continues his quest to destroy everything that Sam loves. Who’s up first? Misty? Patriot? Or perhaps someone even more dear to our hero?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Well, the color scheme is certainly growing on me, but I'm not sure what's going on with the shoulders. I kind of hate the squared and prominent shoulder thingees.

Also, the first arc of the new Falcon book had Sam squaring off against Blackheart, a demon from hell. And now he's on to...vampires? Is it weird that a book starring the Falcon is becoming devoted to supernatural menaces...?

Well, the presence of vampires does increase the likelihood of a Blade guest-appearance, so I'm all for that.

This April SQUIRREL GIRL meets MS. MARVEL – for the very first time! When Doreen Green (also known as the unbeatable Squirrel Girl) volunteers as head counselor for an extra-curricular computer programming camp, little does she know that junior counselor Kamala Khan moonlights as crime fighting super hero Ms. Marvel! But this coding camp is more than just ones and zeros when A.I.M. makes an appearance! Will our heroes be able to save the campers without blowing their secret identities? Join Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, America, Inferno, and Patriot as they learn exactly what it means to be a young hero in the Marvel Universe – and what it means to be a hero to each other.

Can it really be true that Squirrel Girl has never met Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan? That sounds impossible, right? Even if one never guest-starred in the other's book, it seems like they would have to have bumped into one another during a secret or civil war or something, right? Just, statistically speaking...?

That said, even after racking my brain for minutes upon minutes, I couldn't think of a single panel in which I had seen the two characters together, let alone them having an actual conversation. That's...that's actually kind of mind-blowing, isn't it?

I am assuming that this is a comic to promote an upcoming cartoon of some sort, as that image and the characters in it are so familiar, but I'd be interested in reading it. Not only is the price right, not only do I like a handful of those characters an awful lot, but it's written by Devin Grayson, one of the better Batman writers of the 1990s.

This is a pretty great cover. That's Becky Coonan's cover for an issue of Moon Knight.

So I can't imagine what exactly is going on here, but I'm really into it.

Donny Cates, Kieron Gillen, Al Ewing, Ryan North, Christopher Hastings, & Katie Cook (W)
Geoff Shaw, Katie Cook, Frazer Irving & TBD (A)
Thanos is likely the most evil being in the universe…and if anyone would know, it’s the all-new Cosmic Ghost Rider. Let the spirit of vengeance be your guide on a tour through the worst of the worst, as he reveals the most heinous deeds ever perpetrated by the Mad Titan…or by anyone else!
40 PGS./Parental Advisory …$4.99

That is such a varied line up of contributors that this comic probably deserves a pretty thorough flip-through upon the week of release.

The story that began in VENOMVERSE reaches its epic conclusion with VENOMIZED! The POISONS, a species that hungers for super-powered symbiotes and their hosts, have picked their next target…THE MARVEL UNIVERSE ITSELF! Their first objective? Put every superhuman in a Klyntar symbiote – and CONSUME THEM! But with VENOM and the X-MEN still missing after the events of “Poison-X,” the planet, and its heroes, is defenseless!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

Oh. So "Poison-X," which will be available in trade collection in April, and then this series. So I guess I know know where the storyline that started with Venomverse continues. I liked that okay, although I admittedly liked it as much a a comic book about costume re-designing than as anything else. Based on the solicitation copy, there will be many more such redesigns in this series.

The Nick Bradshaw covers are so damn great, too; I wish one of the super-comics publishers could find a monthly series for him to do interiors for.

Wait a minute, that's not actually how a Venom-ized Iceman's powers would work, is it...? That...doesn't really make sense...