Spider-Woman #1

Spider-Woman-2_612x931Spider-Woman #1 was a bit confusing for me, as I’m not currently reading the Spider-Verse stories. However, I really love Jessica Drew. She really is probably one of my top ten characters. Needless to say, I was surprised that this series starts out with her, along with Silk and Spider-Man Noir, riding dinosaurs on an alien looking world.

The group is fighting these weird Team Rocket looking brother and sister duo called the Inheritors, who are killing all the Spider-heroes throughout the multiverse to feed off their life energies.

The whole Spider-Verse story does interest me, but I think this might be something that I’ll revisit once it gets back to just being a book about Jessica. On the plus side, I think this is the best art that I’ve ever seen from Greg Land.

JSA #54

jsa-thanksgivingI’ll admit; I bought JSA #54 because it had this awesome Carlos Pacheco cover. I mean, really, what’s there to not like about the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America getting down for a Thanksgiving party.

I mean, I will give you that it does seem a little odd how Superman and Power Girl are posed respectively as the mother and father as this group. Especially when you remember that they are cousins. But there’s something Norman Rockwell-esque about this cover that just gets me.

The story itself is a one off written by Geoff Johns, and it’s a fun quick read. It’s a very light one at that, pretty much having all of these super heroes getting together for an afternoon of holiday fun.

You can check it out on Comixology; it’s a cute one.

New Teen Titans #22

newteentitans22I’ve always been a big fan of Brother Blood, mostly due to picking up some comics that had the Teen Titans fighting him. That, and a really wicked cover of him rising out of a vat of blood. The New Teen Titans #22 is the second appearance of this highly underrated villain.

The issue is joined in progress, with Brother Blood’s cult having kidnapped Robin and Wonder Girl, both of whom are being tortured by a very generic looking cult member called the Confessor. Robin also spends most of the issue running around in his underwear, until Cyborg and Kid Flash rescue their missing team members.

Brother Blood attempts to escape, but a staged accident frames the Titans for killing the cult leader. Things don’t look good for the next issue, as Starfire’s evil older sister Blackfire is en route to planet earth.

The art is awesome; it’s George Perez at his peak. And the story is fine. Good book.

Aquaman Volume 1: The Trench

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I think I’m the only person in the world who finds Geoff Johns’ writing to be very hit or miss. I know I’m not the only person in the world who thinks that Aquaman can be pretty lame as a character. That said, when I picked up Aquaman Volume 1: The Trench I had really low expectations. What I wound up reading was a really fun story pitting Aquaman against an army of aquatic subterranean creatures.

The main story featured in this collection is from Aquaman #1-4, with the cannibalistic deep-sea dwellers called the Trench invading the surface world. It’s up to Aquaman and his wife Mera to stop this invasion. Think of Night Of The Living Dead meets The Abyss, except with a lot more humor worked in. Eventually it’s revealed that the reason that the Trench are invading the surface world is that they are facing extinction and trying to stop it, but at the expense of the surface world. Eventually Aquaman saves mankind (and probably the rest of the residents of the ocean as well) by trapping the Trench. And along the way he rescues a Golden Retriever who winds up being named Aquadog.

The other two stories in this collection feature Aquaman stranded in a desert and a story that tells more about Mera’s origin as an Atlantean assassin. These are perfectly acceptable, but the main story line is what makes the collection. It’s certainly sold me on the series; I have the next two volumes waiting for me at the library.

 

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.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters

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This September comic book fans are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the X-Men. Since their September 1963 debut, the group of mutant super heroes (and their on again, off again villains) have been involved in some of the best and most memorable stories that Marvel has published.

It’s amazing that the franchise, which has spun off countless movies, video games, cartoons, toys and other merchandise was almost cancelled due to low sales in 1970. Fortunately, the Cockrum/Byrne/Claremont era began around 1975 and the series has been a mainstay since.

So why have the X-Men lasted so long and have been so successful?

The main theme has been about the desire of proving that no matter how different you are, you can be a productive member of society. At one point, everyone has felt insecure about their place in the world, and how they have to work harder to prove to everyone that they belong.

The other theme is about inclusion and diversity. That doesn’t need to be explained. Just look at the all-time roster of the X-Men, having come from different races and cultures, some from different planets. And those are just the differences on the surface. But the point is that we are all mutants people, and everyone deserves to be treated equally.

So to celebrate this, I’m going to be blogging the fifty greatest X characters. This should be fun and I can’t wait to see your responses.

Fatale Volume 1

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I’ve enjoyed the Criminal series by writer Ed Brubaker with artist Sean Phillips, so I assumed I would like the duo’s Fatale. 

The two books are alike, in a sense that they’re both very well written and illustrated noir pieces. However, Fatale goes a little darker into the supernatural direction and loses me along the way.

Nicolas Lash has uncovered a “lost” manuscript written by his recently deceased godfather. His discovery of this has put him at odds with several gruesome occult types and in contact with a would be protector named Jo. The mysterious woman said that her grandmother Josephine had been with his godfather who experienced a similar supernatural problem fifty years prior.

Fatale goes back and forth from the past and present, and at times it gets a little difficult telling what timeline you are reading. It becomes clear by the end of the book that Jo and Josephine are the same person, and I’m sure that becomes a plot point for later issues.

Fatale is a dark fantasy, but it really doesn’t resonate with me. I don’t think I will be continuing with this.

Thunderbolts #8

thunderbolts-8This cover is a bit of a swerve; Deadpool doesn’t attack the Punisher at any point in Thunderbolts #8.

While the main team is on various stake out missions against Middle Eastern terrorists and weapons dealers trying to get a lead on the gamma powered weaponry, writer Daniel Way is still building up the tension among the team’s members, specifically as a result of the Punisher/Elektra/Deadpool love triangle. I also love the way that the Leader is portrayed as being somewhat incompetent and not realizing the full potential of what he can or cannot do.

There is a lot of foreshadowing going on, as Orestez Natchios is giving an author lecture about his newest book on terrorism. I’m sure as the story unfolds he is going to have something to do with the gamma Crimson Dynamos from the last issue.

Thunderbolts #7

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Thunderbolts #7 starts out a bit different from the previous issues, with Phil Noto taking over from Steve Dillon on the penciling duties. Daniel Way has the team dealing with the fallout from their first mission while travelling in a submarine.

There is growing tension on the submarine, as Punisher and Elektra’s somewhat secret relationship has come to life, and Deadpool is quite the jealous merc with a mouth.

The issue ends with all of the Thunderbolts attempting to overthrow the Red Hulk, as they’re still not exactly sure of what’s going on.

Because he’s, you know, gamma powered and everything, Red Hulk quickly dispatches the attempted coup. He finally starts to explain more of their mission and how he has assembled this group to stop enemies of the state that have acquired gamma weaponry. There was a large gamma weapon that was taken during the first story arc and they have to stop it from falling into the wrong hands.

The last pages of the story pretty much reveal that; whoever got a hold of the gamma weapon has used it to put together a battalion of gamma-powered Crimson Dynamo battle armored soldiers.

I’m liking where this is heading and by this point you can see that Way is hitting his stride. Phil Noto’s art is pretty sweet as well. I still don’t get why everyone is so harsh on this series.

Batman/Superman #1-2

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I know I’ve been kind of harsh on some of the New 52 stuff that DC has been putting out, but I was pleasantly surprised after I read Batman/Superman #1-2. But then again, anything that combines Jae Lee’s art with a Greg Pak script will be great.

This series starts out with the two meeting for the first time, shortly after Clark Kent is investigating Bruce Wayne for an article he is writing. After a costumed encounter, they realize each other’s extracurricular activities and there is a lot of fun super hero battling. This newly found friendship/alliance has them take on the mysterious shape-shifting Trickster and eventually sends them to Earth 2 where they encounter alternate versions of themselves!

It is a bit of a complicated read, with all the shape-shifting and multiple versions of the same characters, but it’s definitely worth sticking with. Pak is a great writer and I’m sure it will all make sense at the end. And for Lee’s art, it’s just awesome.

So I give this a thumbs up. It was a pleasant surprise that I wasn’t necessarily planning to check out.

Red She-Hulk: Hell Hath No Fury

red-she-hulk-hell-hath-no-fury

Now this was awesome. Red She-Hulk: Hell Hath No Fury was something that felt completely fresh in its concept. Betty Ross (who can change at will into the Red She-Hulk) in a situation like The Fugitive; she has to shut down a top-secret military super soldier program called Echelon.

Since this is technically an attack on the United States, the Avengers have been sent to stop her. They don’t know that Betty has been informed by Nikola Tesla via an ancient computer called the Terranometer is that Echelon will eventually bring about the end of humanity. I know that doesn’t make sense, but if you have been reading Jonathan Hickman’s S.H.I.E.L.D. it would.

She is in pursuit by Machine Man, who winds up joining her after he connects to the Terranometer and learns of this future. Somehow there is a mute girl named Eleanor who is tied to this. Jeff Parker adds a lot of suspense to the story by having the two fighting to escape S.H.I.E.L.D. The book ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, with Jennifer Banner–the original She-Hulk–seemingly getting involved with Echelon’s plan.

I liked Red She-Hulk a lot. Parker put together a really fast paced story, everything ties together and looks to be building to a huge pay off. Carlo Pagulayan’s art is stellar, but there were a few errors in the coloring/after effects that were left in, like notes to the colorists and what not. Normally that could bother someone, but the story and art are so strong that it makes you ignore them. This is good stuff and I want to read more.

X-Factor Forever

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It’s no secret that I’m a super fan of Louise Simonson’s work, so getting the X-Factor Forever collection was a must buy for me. The book resolves plot-lines that she had set up nearly twenty years ago!

The first part of the story pretty much reestablished the dynamics of the characters. Cyclops (and his son Nathan, who, you know grows up to be Cable) are adjusting to life with a newly returned from the grave Jean Grey, and the rest of the team is enjoying themselves.

At first, it seems like the kidnapping of young Nathan by Caliban and Mister Sinister is the worst that will happen. But instead, X-Factor finds itself in an uneasy alliance with Apocalypse to find the child, for he is the proof that the cosmic Celestials need to deem mutant-kind a worthy species.

The resulting story has to be the best written Apocalypse I’ve ever encountered. Through the main narrative (and a back-up feature that chronicles his life) we learn that he has been subtly influencing the direction of mankind into evolving, ensuring its survival among the planet’s other species, the Deviants and Eternals. Apocalypse had appointed Mister Sinister to be his apprentice who unfortunately has his ideas on how humans and mutants should evolve. It’s a race against time and whoever has Nathan will control the outcome of the Celestial’s judgement.

Again, the writing on this is amazing. Louise is able to conjure the feelings of Jack Kirby style cosmic drama with Grant Morrison-like sensibilities, all the while not sacrificing her own style. I highly recommend this. And if you pick up the collected version, it includes X-Factor #63-64, which concluded her run on the original series. Get this…you won’t be disappointed.

Uncanny Avengers #9

Uncanny_Avengers_Vol_1_9

What’s the best part of birthdays? Birthday presents! One of my coworkers gave me the recent Uncanny Avengers #9 which comes at a perfect time, since I just got through the first collected volume of the series.

The series is still following the same main plot points from before. The Apocalypse Twins are now shown as adults who seem to have some sort of plan to destroy everything, and it’s up to this group of Avengers to save everything.

To make matters more confusing, it turns out that a lot of these current problems are the result of Kang the Conqueror and Immortus’ influence on the time streams. I know they are the same person, but the fact that both of them have independently messed things up has to count for something.

There’s also a lot of division on the team, between the mutants that make up the group and Thor being on one side, and the traditional Avengers on the other. There’s a lot of yelling when it’s revealed that Wolverine lead the covert mission to kill the young child Apocalypse.

The book ends with the Apocalypse Twins revealing their new Four Horsemen: Banshee, Daken, Grim Reaper and Sentry. Things can’t be going to well for the Uncanny Avengers.

Rick Remender does a great job carrying plot points from not only earlier in this series, but going back to his work on Uncanny X-Force. And on the visual side of things, David Acuna is great in how he creates a very unique take on these classic characters.

Silver Surfer #2: The Badoon Strikes Back

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I’m continuing my fun look back at the old Silver Surfer series. The second issue not only helps set the main themes for the series, but it also introduces a new villain to the Marvel  Universe that will play a big roll in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film next year.

The Badoon–a reptilian alien species–has targeted Earth as its net conquest. After a brief encounter with the Silver Surfer, they explain that they have come in peace and are only interested in ending all evil. Surfer can kind of agree with that, as during his brief time on the planet he has grown greatly disenfranchised on how mankind treats one another.

This opinion on the Badoon is changed when an imprisoned Earth woman shares their true intent: enslaving the planet. This doesn’t jive well at all with the Silver Surfer, and the rest of the issue has him fighting off the Badoon spacecraft and monsters that are attacking Manhattan. Eventually they give up on their conquest, only to return in the future of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Silver Surfer may have gotten rid of the Badoon, but his reputation took the worst of it. The aliens were using some sort of cloaking technology straight out of Star Trek that made them invisible to the world, making it look like it was the Silver Surfer attacking the city on his own.

Stan Lee does such a great job writing the character. He’s an outsider, cursed to live among a world that completely fears and distrusts him. Even when he does the right thing (in this case dealing with the Badoon) it only winds up hurting him in the end. That is combined with the fact that Surfer continually brings up the fact of how hypocritical human nature is. Oh yeah, and that John Buscema who drew this is pretty sweet too.

The Tick: Free Comic Book Day 2013

Ifree-comic-book-day-tick‘ve always been a fan of the tick. I was instantly hooked on the character by the super cool cartoon series on Fox and wound up spending a lot of time during my middle and high school years tracking down whatever I could find. Remember…this was the mid to late 1990s and the internet was still in its infancy.

So this year’s Free Comic Book Day offering was definitely a treat for me. It featured new stories written by Jeff McClelland. He certainly knows how to put together in the spirit of the original Ben Edlund material. The main feature involves the Tick, his longtime (and long suffering sidekick) Arthur on vacation with several other super heroes. The relaxation comes to a stop when lobster people from the ocean floor start invading the surface. It’s up to an extremely sun-burnt and lobster-looking Arthur to stop the invasion. The other features involve the duo on a deserted island and the Tick attempting to learn about the internet.

This was a great treat for me; it reminded me how fun the character is. There is just something charming about the Tick. He pretty much should be one of the most annoying…if not the annoying characters in comics. But his simpleness just makes him so entertaining. He’s like if Tigger and Sheldon Cooper were merged into a muscle bound blue hero.

I’ll give this a thumbs up. If McClelland is in charge of the character these days, he get’s a double thumbs and a “SPPOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON!!!!” battle cry. He gets what a Tick story is supposed to be and I can’t wait to see more material from him.

Worlds of Aspen 2013: Free Comic Book Day

worlds-of-aspen-2013I really like the art of Michael Turner and read a lot of his work and the rest of the Aspen Studios crew during the early 2000s. Part of it was because Turner and the rest of his crew were just so friendly and great to talk with at comic book conventions.

When Michael passed away in 2008, I kind of lost track of what the company was publishing. This year is the publisher’s fifteenth anniversary, so Worlds of Aspen 2013: Free Comic Book Day is an opportunity for them to show off the new Fathom series. Aspen Matthews is back, taking a reporter on a journey under the sea (fortunately without Flounder or Sebastian). Along the way, Aspen recaps all of the previous plot-lines and characters, only to find out that something bad has happened to her longtime nemesis Killian. This pretty much serves as a jump-on point for the next volume of the series.

On the art side, it has really well rendered backgrounds and features some of the best coloring you would see in modern comics. Plus for some reason, every woman is wearing a bikini and the men are overly muscled and scantily clad as well. It’s everything you would expect from an Aspen book.

The rest of the issue shares some information about the other new Aspen series that are coming out this year, all of which feature a lead female character. This approach is very interesting to me, as it seems like a good way to expand their audience to more women. But the fact that these characters are drawn like pin-up models makes me wonder if that will be a turn off women from wanting to read these.

I might give these a try, but the only thing I’m positive is picking up the Fathom series once its in a collected version. They’re much more satisfying to read in a single volume.

Valiant 2013: Free Comic Book Day Special

valiant-2013Now this was a throwback of sorts to the early 1990s. I’m talking about the days when Wizard magazine pretty much was the guide to comics and such. A publisher called Valiant was all the rage, with it’s mix of new modern characters and the revamped classics Magnus and Turok.

I never really read much from the publisher, save for the stuff that was put in the value comic bundles at dollar stores all through the nineties. The publisher returned in its newest incarnation last summer and the Valiant 2013: Free Comic Book Day special does a pretty good job serving as a starting point for new readers.

It features an excerpt from their big summer crossover Harbringer Wars as well as their other monthly books. In addition, they have creator intervivews. And the art in the Valiant books of 2013 looks a lot better to me than the art of Valiant in 1993.

The purpose of Free Comic Book day offerings is to attract new readers, so I guess I would say this did it’s job. I’m a bit more interested in their Archer and Armstrong series, but that’s more due to me really liking writer Fred Van Lente. So I’ll keep that on my radar but it’s not a must read for me. I’m going to put it out to the rest of you: how are the modern Valiant books?

Moon Knight: Fist of Knoshu #1-4

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Remember how not too long ago I was professing my love of those early 1980s Moon Knight comics? I read that series’ 1985 follow-up mini-series Moon Knight: Fist of Knoshu and didn’t really enjoy it.

The whole purpose of this was to set up a new status quo and to reboot the character to a certain extent. The character’s origin is still the same; they’ve just added more ties to the Egyptian god Knoshu.

Knoshu’s rival, the deity known as Anubis has selected a new avatar to walk the earth. To combat this, Knoshu’s worshipers have recruited Marc Spector into becoming Moon Knight once again. To help sweeten the deal, the cult arms him with some magical weapons and cast a spell on him gives him supernatural powers tied to the moon.

Moon Knight goes on to stop Anubis’ avatar, but at the cost of alienating his girlfriend Marlene and much of his inner circle by re-donning the costume. But hey, he got some sweet powers out of the deal!

I really liked the previous take on the character, with Moon Knight having a much stronger pulp influence. This more supernatural based version really didn’t do it for me. I mean, I still like the character but in general anything that goes too much into supernatural and even horror genres turns me off. I do have more of the previous series that I want to look at. That said, I’ll recommend this for completion only.

Transformers #1

transformers-1Isn’t it kind of crazy to think that the Transformers have been a part of our culture for just about thirty years now? Transformers #1 brings the world’s most famous robots into the realm of comic books.

This issue does exactly what you would expect it to do. It’s a quick adaptation of the Transformers back story, with the Cybertronian civil war between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons spilling over to our planet, with them laying comatose under a volcano in Oregon since the dinosaur era. One day an eruption reawakens the robots (who have now adapted to their new surrounding), rekindling their ages old feud. It also introduces the comics version of the Witwicky family, the humans who wind up interacting the most with the Autobots.

It’s a great beginning to the run of the Marvel era of Transformers comics, and hard to believe that this almost wound up being just a four issue mini series. The book sold like hotcakes and went on to have an eighty issue run.

There’s a lot of talent on the creative side of this book, whether it be the awesome Bill Sienkiewicz cover to Bill Mantlo’s credit as a co-writer on this book. That is something that I was never aware of till this last re-reading.

The one very impressive thing about the creative team on this is that colorist Nel Yomtov did the colors on all eighty issues of the series, plus all the various specials and related mini series that were off shoots of this. That’s one heck of a streak right there!