Red Lanterns #27

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I don’t know half of what’s happened leading up to this but it’s got a cover that makes me happy. As a long-time fan of the JLI era, getting to see Guy Gardner and Ice getting into some mischief is enough for me.

Red Lanterns #27 starts on some planet that Guy and the rest of the Red Lanterns liberated. He’s also had a bit of a change in appearance from the cover, as he now sports a mustache that Burt Reynolds would be jealous of.

The main story features Guy trying to win his ex-girlfriend Ice back, who lives in an icy cabin in the woods of Norway. It’s just like the movie Frozen, except a million times cooler. They broke up because he’s an angry, miserable son-of-a-gun but he’s much better now.

The subplot has two teams of the Red Lanterns out on patrol, two looking for the missing ring of the late-RL Ratchet, and the other two go sight-seeing around the planet Earth. Unfortunately they make fun of Guy’s hometown Baltimore, which also happens to be one of my favorite places.

Perhaps I’ll follow this series more…

Daredevil #1

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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and I’m rereading one of my  Valentine’s Day presents from last year: Essential Dardevil. What makes this so much fun for me is the artwork from Bill Everett. Over the years he has become one of my favorite pencilers and the black and white format really makes his art pop so much.

On the story side, Stan Lee presents a typical origin from this time. We start off with a brief flashback before going back and presenting Daredevil’s history. His origin is very straight forward; Matt Murdock was raised by his boxer single dad. Eventually Matt winds up losing his vision albeit in a noble fashion, and his dad’s life is ended by an evil boxing promoter–appropriately named the Fixer. Matt winds up training to confront the Fixer and winds up becoming the super hero that we know and love called Daredevil.

The funny part of this story is the fact that there’s a blind guy sewing together the costume, developing a spring loaded grappling hook weapon and becoming a master gymnast/fighter. Matt became much more talented once he lost his vision. The other is that Matt’s best friend, co-lawyer Foggy Nelson and their secretary Karen Page both notice that he’s been disappearing frequently. But they never confronted him once during the issue.

Daredevil #1 really wasn’t the best written first appearance of a character especially when you compare it to some of the other stuff Marvel was putting out at the time. But what makes this great, again, is Everett’s artwork. It’s really strong.

John Romita Jr’s Superman May Be The Coolest Thing Ever

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Superman just became awesome again.

I will admit that I’ve grown away from Superman as a character. At one point he was definitely one of my favorites; I loved the whole Dan Jurgens/1990s era of the character when they were putting out four tightly knit Superbooks a month. But over the years, I wound up losing interest, especially all of the undoing of the John Byrne post-Crisis aspects and replacing them with a more Geoff Johns/Richard Donner theme.

The Superman in the New 52 books has peaked my interest on and off, mostly due to Jurgens’ involvement on the title. Fast forward to the recent announcement that there was going to be a new Superman series with Geoff Johns at the helm and I wasn’t that excited. But with them announcing that John Romita Jr. would be drawing Supes with Klaus Janson on the inking side, suddenly this is something I want to read.

This is the first DC work that JRjr has done and having it be on one of their–if not the–highest profile characters certainly is exciting. Color me optimistic.

Batman: Death Of The Family

 

death_of_the_familyThanks to my friendly local public library, I’ve been on a bit of a New 52 kick. Scott Snyder’s Batman: Death Of The Family is a suspenseful collection that pits the Dark Knight against his most sadistic foe–the Joker.

The story is simple; the Joker has returned to Gotham City and is recreating some of his greatest most horrific encounters with Batman. Not only that, but he’s attempting to kill of Batman’s allies. Batman kind of expects that he would go after Batgirl, Red Hood and even Red Robin. But things get taken to another level when the Joker sets his sights on Bruce Wayne’s long-suffering butler Alfred. It’s up to Batman to stop the Joker and save his extended Batfamily.

The conclusion of the story isn’t the most satisfying. One of the plot points is that the Joker has somehow figured out the connection between Batman and Bruce Wayne, to the extent that he knew that a way to get to Batman would be by attacking Alfred and how to access the Batcave (which is presumably still connected to Wayne Manor). This was explained in a flashback at the story with Batman as Bruce Wayne confronting the Joker at the Arkham Asylum over a Joker card that was mysteriously found in the Batcave. That in turn gives away everyone else’s identity. But at the end of the story, it was pretty much stated that the Joker didn’t know any of this information. That part I’m still not clear on.

The other interesting reveal was that Batman does indeed know who the Joker was before be became a sociopath. They didn’t reveal it but I would assume that it would mean that he is connected to some of the more prominent characters in the Bat universe.

Death Of The Family did get my attention and I did enjoy it. I really wish that the big reveals at the end were more concrete and not just spring boards for future stories. If you have any thoughts, please comment because I’m still trying to put it all together.

Teen Titans #0

ImageI know it’s been a while; I’ve been spending more time reading comics than blogging about them. Well, that and being increasingly busy in my professional life. So here’s a quick one so I can get back on track.

Teen Titans #0 gives us the backstory of the New 52-ized Tim Drake. Previously Tim was the son of two Bruce Wayne-level wealthy parents, and over the years he had several encounters with both Bruce and Dick Grayson. He eventually figures out their secret identities, and after the death of his mother and crippling of his father Tim becomes the third Robin to avenge his family’s losses.

Writer Scott Lobdell takes the origin in a different direction. He’s a superstar high school gymnast and general smartypants who tries to figure out–unsuccessfully–who the Batman is. To get the Dark Knight’s attention, he hacks the Penguin’s bank account.

That was a surefire way to get everyone attention, with Batman having to save them. As a result, his parents have been put into the witness protection program and have been relocated somewhere in the country and he now has to take the identity of Tim Drake, an adopted ward of Bruce Wayne. At that point Bruce finally reveals that he’s Batman and Tim dons the roll of Red Robin.

The one theme that is hammered into this issue was the relationship between Tim and his parents. They were immensely proud of him and everything that he had been able to accomplish. However, he wound up giving that all away in his quest to unmask Batman. Not only is he isn’t living with them and with extremely limited contact, but they will never know about his true greatest accomplishment: being a super hero.

It’s interesting all around and I’m sure Lobdell is planning on revisiting his parents at some point.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode 1: Pilot

 

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Marvel/ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. started last week and brings the Marvel Cinematic Universe to television. So how was it–and better yet, how is Agent Coulson still alive?

The series follows up after the events of the Avengers and they never explain how Coulson (still played by Clark Gregg) survived his apparent death. Three words: Life. Model. Decoy. Anywho, he has been reassigned to a super top-secret division of S.H.I.E.L.D. that even the Avengers have no idea about and he is investigating a threat called Rising Tide with a new group of agents. The rest of the first episode is spent with this new team trying to gel and stop a dangerous man who has been equipped with Extremis, as we last saw in Iron Man 3 this summer.

The show was pretty by the numbers and what you would expect from the debut of a new action/drama. Ultimately the agents put aside their differences and stop the villain, and Coulson gets to drive home in a hovercraft convertible sports car just like Jim Steranko would have drawn. It is a decent show that will probably get better, but to me it didn’t have the immediate “WOW~!” factor that Arrow did in its debut.

But what it does have going for it is how awesome Gregg is as an actor. He is awesome as the sarcastic normal person in this fantastic world. I also liked Cobie Smulder’s guest appearance as S.H.I.E.L.D. commander Maria Hill as well. With her primary gig on How I Met Your Mother coming to an end, it would be a safe bet to assume that we will see more of Hill in the next season.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is fine and I’m sure that it will get better. The challenge for them is to find that balance between the movies and finding their own identity as a series.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #40: Sabretooth

sabretoothSabretooth has always been a favorite character of mine. I know it’s all the rage to say that the Joker is the most evil villain in comic books but it has to be the big burly guy named Victor Creed.

Thanks to having a mutation that has gifted him a healing factor (and other predatory animal abilities just like his longtime nemesis Wolverine), Sabretooth has been around forever. Unlike Wolverine, he has no qualms about using deadly force at any times.

This lack of humanity, deadly abilities and no moral compass whatsoever makes him extremely evil. Plus his physical augmentation from Weapon X and several other evil organizations has only made him more unstoppable.

I just love how he never has any redeemable qualities. The few times he has seemed like a halfway decent person were when he was held captive by the X-Men and befriended Boom Boom or was a member of X-Factor, but those were to further his own motives. I even loved his portrayal in Avengers: 1959 where Howard Chaykin took this further by showing how bloodthirsty he will be when there is money involved.

So yes, Sabretooth is a really evil spirited immoral killing machine. I think that’s what also makes the Age of Apocalypse version (the one that was heavily featured in Exiles) such a great contrasting character. That Sabretooth is a role model to the other mutants, even taking in Wild Child and Blink as his pseudo children. I just love the direction that they took him in and it’s great.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #41: Shatterstar

shatterstar-x-force-x-factoNext up is another character that I’ve always enjoyed. He is as sharp as a tack, well the signature double-bladed swords that he carries. I’m talking about the X-Forcer turned X-Factorer Shatterstar.

His debut was fairly straight forward. Shatterstar is a test-tube grown mutant from the Mojoworld of the future who traveled back in time to help the X-Men to help them defeat the alien Mojo who rules the dimension he calls home. His introduction was just like so many of the characters that first appeared in the early 1990s; he shows up, joins a group and starts kicking ass. For the most part, everyone did a good job writing him. He was a displaced warrior who would be much more comfortable fighting people. Needless to say, he jived perfectly with being in X-Force under Cable’s tutelage but not so much when it was the other young mutants running the show.

Eventually they gave him more of a character, with him at one point having acquired the memories of a deceased teenager. But the biggest character growth was under Jeph Loeb’s direction, with an allusion to Shatterstar having a secret relationship with his teammate Rictor. A decade later, Shatterstar and Rictor became public with their relationship and creating Marvel’s premier gay couple. It’s been handled very well, and Rictor and Shatterstar have an extra complexity going on. This is his first romantic relationship of any kind and he doesn’t want the exclusivity that Rictor is seeking. And to make things more confusing, Shatterstar finds himself attracted to both sexes. I like the direction that they’ve taken, making him a coming of age character who is pushing thirty.

Oh and one more really cool thing about Shatterstar…HE’S THE SON OF DAZZLER AND LONGSHOT!!!! Way back in 1992′s X-Men Annual #1, there’s a one-off comment between Dazzler and Longshot talking about naming a child Shatterstar and kicking off two decades worth of speculation. As part of Peter David’s conclusion for X-Factor, this is revisited and is FINALLY confirmed.

$(KGrHqUOKkEE7HvjNWkzBPmuqeVlyQ~~60_35And one more thing…Toy Biz made some really cool Shatterstar figures back in the 1990s. I remember vividly picking up the figure on your right when I thought I was way too old to be stopping into a Kay Bee Toys and buying anything. I was a freshman in high school and would have been quite embarrassed if anyone saw me. But then again, I wasn’t invited to any of the cool kids’ parties any way.

So there I was proudly plopping down five bucks to get an awesome action figure which I still have to this day!

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #42: Colossus

colossus-x-menColossus might be one of the strongest in the X-Men pantheon but he isn’t necessarily the most complex  Don’t let his shiny silver exterior fool you: this Russian mutant has a heart of gold.

At his heart, Peter Rasputin is a fairly simple man. He is incredibly loyal to his family, willing to forgive his brother Mikhail for forcefully trying to take over the Morlocks or even going to painstaking lengths he went to try to find a cure for the Legacy Virus that was killing his sister Ilyanna. He extends this to his friends, whether it be standing up for Nightcrawler and Wolverine in a bar fight or even to his on-again, off-again girlfriend Kitty Pryde.

Sometimes his selflessness is a detriment, as he sacrificed himself to find a cure to the Legacy Virus which lead to his demise. But this is comics so he was eventually reincarnated. He sacrificed himself to become the Juggernaut in an attempt to save San Francisco.

Colossus is a great supporting character because he is so generous. He is extremely likable and just a nice guy. You can just tell that he would much rather be home in Russia farming and being with his family instead of being a super hero. That makes him cool in my book.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #43: Gideon

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Gideon was a really cool concept for an X-Men villain that always had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, he had a really short life span before he was killed by the mutant vampire Selene. that said, he’s still cool in my book.

He was born in the fifteenth century and served as a crew member for Christopher Columbus’ New World voyage. After being left for dead, Gideon discovered that he was nearly immortal. Not only is he a mutant with the power to mimic the skills and abilities of the people around him, but he also belongs to the subspecies of Externals which have the gift of immortality. Gideon isn’t the type of villain in the Doctor Doom style, that wants world domination, nor is he like the Joker and wants to be an agent of chaos. Instead, Gideon spent his time lurking in the background manipulating the people around him for his own gain and amassed a fortune.

Gideon made himself publicly known around the same time as the original X-Force debuted, as he was interested in mentoring Sunspot whom was believed to be another External. In order to get closer to the younger mutant, Gideon had his father brutally murdered. It turned out that Sunspot wasn’t an External, and it was really Cannonball instead. Eventually the truth was revealed and this put him at odds with X-Force for the rest of his life. Although he never became a full on villain, he did have an odd respect of Sunspot, Cannonball and the rest of X-Force. Towards the end of his life when he feared Selene was going to murder him he reached out to him for assistance. Unfortunately, they got the message too late.

Gideon was an interesting character and the possibilities of what the could do were endless. It’s a shame he hasn’t been brought back to the land of the living.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #45 and 44: Cypher and Warlock

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For my next choice I pick two characters who are completely different from each other but together became one of the best super hero tandems ever. I’m talking about Cypher and Warlock from the New Mutants.

At first glance, they aren’t necessarily the most exciting characters. Cypher was a nerdy friend of Kitty Pryde’s and it was eventually revealed that he had a fairly non-threatening mutant power: the ability to comprehend, speak and interpret any form of communication. Warlock is a techno-organic mutant from a far off alien home world. Needless to say, the two wound up as students at the Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and eventually as members of the New Mutants team.

The two became inseparable and soon were best friends. Thanks to Cypher sharing his own life’s energy to save Warlock, they even share memories. Needles to say, Warlock had an extremely difficult time dealing with Cypher’s death. The alien robot wound up being killed by Cameron Hodge during the X-Tinction Agenda storyline.

Like they say, death in comics is only a relative condition and a hybrid Warlock/Dough Ramsey (Cypher’s civilian identity) showed up called Douglock. This reincarnated character looked like a techno-organic recreation of Cypher, but had both character’s memories. Eventually it was revealed that Douglock was really just Warlock having rebooted himself from Doug’s memories. Once Warlock was aware of that, he deactivated the copy of his fallen friend’s memories. Eventually Cypher was resurrected and Warlock (along with the rest of the now adult New Mutants) was able to break him from the evil Selene’s control.

Warlock and Cypher are just two great characters because of their friendship. The fact that we’ve been reading it about it for almost thirty years only adds to its awesomeness.

Justice League of America #7.1: Deadshot #1

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I’m not reading too much  current DC stuff this days, but I did pick up Justice League of America #7.1. That said, writer Matt Kindt should get all the credit in the world for doing something extremely difficult: making Deadshot awesome.

The issue lays out the New 52 version of Deadshot’s origin that kind of models itself after the Batman model. When his super frugal parents were gunned downed by a wasteful and sloppy pair of gang members, he snapped.

Deadshot spent the rest of his life training to avenge their deaths in a cost-effective way…by being completely accurate. And this sense of frugality and perfectionism has made him one of the–if not the–best hitmen available. He has a very odd moral compass and that sets him apart from the more wantonly violent assassins in comics (Bullseye I’m looking at you!).

The story ends with him explaining his relationship with Amanda Waller and her government sponsored Suicide Squad, and how he’ll do anything–good or bad–as long as the price is right.  Kindt did a great job taking an older gimmick comic book character and completely modernizing him. Check this out…you won’t be disappointed.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #46: Caliban

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Caliban is one of those tragic characters who started out with a really sad depressing origin and constantly made poor life decisions. What makes him such a compelling character is that you constantly take pity on him.

He originally was introduced as a scrawny, sickly member of the Morlocks–a group of disfigured mutants that crested their own civilization under New York City’s subway system. Instead of being taken into their community with welcome arms, their leader Callisto not only used him in order to take advantage of his mutant tracking abilities but exploited his desire to have a friendship/relationship with X-Man Kitty Pryde.

Caliban eventually found a home with the original incarnation of X-Factor, but even that was short-lived. After the Morlocks were slaughtered by the mercenary Marauders, Caliban sought revenge against them but could not succeed due to his weak nature. To increase his physical capabilities, he wound up making a Faustian deal with Apocalypse that did make him more deadly.

Unfortunately it also left him prone to being under Apocalypse’s control. For the rest of his life he wound up being a member of X-Force until he met his demise twice. This is comics after all.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #47: Boom Boom

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I don’t care if you call her Time Bomb, Boom-Boom, Boomer or Meltdown. Tabitha Smith is awesome. Don’t believe me? Ask writer supreme Warren Ellis:

“I wanted a character who could blow things up,” he said of his choice of Boom-Boom. “I was also looking for a team structure where the women outnumbered the men. I liked her white-trash criminal background, which had uses in the plot set-up. But mostly I wanted a character who could blow things up. I mean, these are characters who no-one at Marvel had any use for, and I could have been stopped at any time, Jen. But a skinny-ass blonde mutant with a kleptomaniac streak had both plot and entertainment value to me. Especially when played against the others.”

I think that says everything you need to know about why I like Boomer.She is definitely a tough cookie. Over the years she’s grown into quite the formidable character. Oh yeah, and her power is infinitely cooler than Jubilee’s.

Getting To Know The Bronze Tiger

 

 

 

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In the second season of Arrow, everyone’s favorite emerald archer gets a new adversary in Bronze Tiger. Played by Michael Jai White, the villain will be part of the Chinese Triad gang that has been wreaking havoc since the first season. So what’s so special about the character?

Bronze Tiger is a mercenary/anti-hero who has been appearing in various DC comics since the seventies. He is a master of several martial arts disciplines and has bested Batman a few times. The character also has a sometimes membership of the Suicide Squad, a government sponsored black ops team that super villains participate in. Basically if they do the government’s dirty work, they can get out of jail quicker.

That said, I think the character is a perfect fit for the Arrow series and it would make sense that he would wind up getting involved with the Chinese Triad to take out the Green Arrow. I also like his modernized, more real world costume. It’s much more appropriate than his comic book look, especially the version that had a big tiger mask that he would wear.

I’m kind of excited about this and I think they chose the right actor for the job. You will remember that White played the title role in Spawn!

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #48: Fantomex

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Fantomex is a X-Man that has really grown on me the last few years in Uncanny X-Force. What I like about him is the fact that he really doesn’t belong, yet somehow sticks around the X-Men. He was my favorite part of the Grant Morrison era due to the fact that him being so unique.

The character is a hybrid human/mutant/sentinel that was created by Weapon Plus program to hunt down mutants, but eventually becomes sentient and has allies himself with the X-Men. And thanks to his programming, he thinks that he’s French.

He is a mercenary by trade, and that is how he got caught up in with Wolverine and Archangel’s secret X-Force team. He reminds me a lot of Deadpool, but without the annoying parts and a more practical conscience. He gets under everyone’s skin and is constantly manipulating people. And that’s what makes an interesting character.

Baltimore Comic-Con 2013 Sketchbook: The Beast by Jamar Nicholas

The Beast by Jamar Nicholas
I was so happy to add this sketch of the Beast to my collection at the Baltimore Comic-Con. It’s by cartoonist Jamar Nicholas who did an amazing adaptation of Geoffrey Canada’s Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence which you should really check out.

You can follow Jamar’s blog here.

Great Comic Shops: Alliance Comics of Baltimore

Comix Come to Federal Hill

Last weekend I was off on a mini vacation to Baltimore, partly because my girlfriend and I love the city, and other part was to enjoy the Baltimore Comic Con. On our “off” day, I got to go to Alliance Comics which is a great comic book shop.

Alliance has an amazing–and really well organized–collection of recent comics and graphic novels. They pretty much had everything I could think of. Not to mention, Alliance has options for the more budget conscious comics fan, with a huge library of discounted trades and a back room filled with $1 back issues. Every time I’ve been there, the staff has been extremely friendly and knowledgeable, both of which are the signs of a great shop. Needless to say, I was very happy to leave with a stack of stuff for the ride home.

The store is located at 904 Light Street in Baltimore’s Federal Hill section. You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #49: Jubilee

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Jubilee is one of the X-Men characters that receives an unbelievable amount of hatred from fans, but I think she’s actually a decent character. There is much more to this character than her original dated costume and her lame super power.

Her back story is fairly unremarkable. Jubilee was just like any teenage girl in pop culture at the time; it was 1989 and meant that she would be spending all of her time at a shopping mall. After her affluent parents were murdered, she wound up on the streets and eventually found herself becoming involved with the X-Men once her powers surfaced.

It’s amazing really when you think about how brave a character she is. She pretty much threw herself into the X-Men, as that dangerous life style was instantly safer then being a mutant teenager on the run. I know she got some sort of inheritance from her parents, but that didn’t happen for a while (I wonder if that was ever resolved). And her power, which is pretty much to shoot off plasma fireworks around her isn’t necessarily the best thing to counteract someone in a fight. That said, Jubilee always gets herself involved in the action.

I also really like that over the last twenty years or so how Jubilee has grown as a character. She has matured and is much more than the bratty youngster palling around the X-Mansion. Some of her best scenes have been with Wolverine, who serves as a father figure to her. This sense of family is continued, as Jubilee has taken it upon herself to be a mentor to X-23, Wolverine’s teenaged female clone.

Her maturity has also been also shown in many different ways, including her leadership role in Generation X and how she has handled not only losing her powers as a result of M-Day but becoming a vampire.

Bet you didn’t think Jubilee was this cool? In closing, there’s one thing we can do…listen to this song that pays tribute to our favorite firework shooting X-Man. Take it away Katy!

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #50: Strong Guy

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Strong Guy is a very complex, overlooked and simple character all at the same time. How does that make any sense?

Strong Guy’s power is that he is able to transform the energy from a physical impact into muscle mass, turning his physique into something that a strong man participant could only dream of. That said, Strong Guy isn’t a strong man at heart. Instead, he’s just projecting a large wise cracking, musclebound image.

We learned in X-Factor #87 about his childhood, with him being a constantly bullied, nerdy weakling who covered up his insecurities with a lot of sarcasm. Once his mutant powers kicked in, he still never developed his confidence. He’s spent a fortune trying to impress people and is severely afraid of letting people know that his mutation causes him a lot of pain.

That said, Strong Guy makes a strong supporting character, whether he is a bodyguard for Lila Cheney or Dazzler or a member of the various X-Factor incarnations he has been part of. Strong Guy works so well in the X-Universe because of his dual nature. He loves putting out the image of a tough guy smart ass, like a WWE version of Denis Leary. But his true self, the one all his teammates and friends see, is a very kind and gregarious giant.