REVIEW: Darth Vader #1

darth-vader-1I find it kind of funny that these days the Marvel Comics titles that I’m most excited about are the Star Wars books. I mean, I grew up in the 1980s. Of course I love Star Wars. But to be honest, I’ve never been that much of a Star Wars comics fan. But that’s been changing.

Darth Vader #1 was a fine first issue. Not to mention, that this is apparently the first Darth Vader ongoing series. Writer Kieron Gillen puts the Sith lord into a situation where he actually appears to be sympathetic.

The series is set after the events of A New Hope, and Vader’s relationship with the Emperor is strained. After all, the Death Star did just get destroyed. Anyway, after a brow-beating from the Emperor, Vader is off to Tatooine for a meeting with Jabba the Hutt.

These scenes were so well done, with Jabba trying to lure Vader over the infamous trap door. The two have some Empire related business to attend to, but the real importance of the meeting is that Vader needs some bounty hunters (Bobba Fett and an evil Wookie named Black Krrsantan) to:

  1. Find out who the mysterious young Jedi (Luke Skywalker) is.
  2. To learn more about the shady new figure that the Emperor has let into his inner circle.

And while on Tatooine, Vader gets to get some anger out by slaying a Tuskan Raider outpost.

As for the art, Salvador Larocca just nails everything. It has the same visual feel as the movies.

Thumbs up.

REVIEW: Convergence: Blue Beetle #1-2

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Full disclosure…I have no idea about what has been going on with DC’s Convergence crossover. But, as a long time Justice League International fan, this was something that would be right up my alley. Oh yeah, and it has Ted Kord alive.

For most of this two-part mini series, we get the Justice League International fighting Kingdom Come‘s Justice League. The two Justice Leagues are pretty much fighting for the survival of their universe. It’s exactly what you would expect from a comic book with alternate reality versions of the same characters fighting each other.

It’s pretty much up to JLI and Kingdom Come Ted Kord to save everyone. From that point, the rest pretty much falls into place. And that they do. They are super heroes, after all.

For an event comic, Convergence: Justice League International just wasn’t eventful. It’s hard justifying to myself that I spent $8 on these two issues. But, as a Blue Beatle fan, at least it was a Ted-centric story. I would pretty much recommend this to anyone who is a Blue Beetle completist.

REVIEW: Red Hood/Arsenal #1

It’s another spin-off from Red Hood and the Outlaws. Starfire #1 was pretty good, so how did her two former male teammates wind up?

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Red Hood/Arsenal #1 brings Red Hood and Arsenal back together again for a new adventure. I really like the dynamic between the two characters, as being friends who constantly one-up each other. In the new DC paradigm, the two have even more in common with them both being the wayward sidekick.

Anyway, the new series has the two of them being reunited at a hostage exchange. There is a lot of action, a few nice fight scenes rendered by Denis Medri along the way. By the end of the issue, the two decide to start working again and we have the new series.

Scott Lobdell writes the characters well, and I think that Arsenal is going to get pushed a bit more to the upfront. Now if he’d only lose that silly hat!

REVIEW: Starfire #1

starfire-1These days, any time Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti are given a female lead they can’t go wrong. They can add Starfire to the list.

I’ll admit, I’m not really a long-term fan of the character. I’m entertained by the silly alien interpretation of Starfire that has been on Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans animated series. And I’ve really grown to like her, since I enjoyed how she was used in the recently ended Red Hood and the Outlaws series.

Conner and Palmiotti somehow manage to combine both of those versions into the same character. Kori is done (for now) being a super hero and has relocated to Key West, Florida.

They’ve build a new world around her, consisting of the local named Stella, as well as an elderly landlord and her grandson. The issue has the same kind of feel as a sitcom, with our lead character being a very happy go lucky fish out of water trying to make a good impression on the town around her. She doesn’t completely understand the people around her in a comedic way, much like the aliens on Third Rock From The Sun. It’s very silly, but the reader never feels insulted. The first issue ends with Kori experiencing her first ever hurricane.

On the art end, Emanuela Lupacchino’s art is very expressive. If they keep the more emotion, character driven story going, this will only make the series better. Put this in your buy pile.

Midnighter #1

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Midnighter #1

I’ve always thought that Midnighter was a cool super hero for years. If you’re not aware, he’s basically a more bad-ass version of Batman (it’s true!). And as much as I liked the most recent Stormwatch series, at times it read a little too complex for my personal taste.

So the new Midnighter series by Steve Orlando definitely got my attention. What I liked about this first issue was how much it focused on Lucas, the man behind the mask.

I think this might be the first time where I read the character being vulnerable. I mean, as far as the combat scenes were concerned, he completely kicked ass. The fight sequences by artist ACO look like they were inspired by Mortal Kombat. Anyway, Midnighter’s vulnerability is on display as we take a glimpse into his dating life. He has met a guy online and the first date is ruined by a group of terrorists running amok in the restaurant that they just happen to be eating in. Comics everyone!

But as the issue goes on, Lucas starts getting attached to his new love interest and goes as far as embeds him with an emergency communications link. And just as his personal life starts coming together, he’s whisked away to the God Garden to save his spiritual benefactor the Gardener.

Midnighter looks to take a complex character and put them into an even more complex world, balancing his romantic life with his super hero responsibilities. But what makes this stand out from the million of other similar themes is the fact that he is gay and ultra-violent. Midnighter is just a fascinating character and I can’t wait to see where this goes. This is definitely the type of series that lends itself to binge reading (or trade waiting), as there is just a lot of stuff going on. But don’t let that scare you. It’s good stuff.

WrestleMania Flashback: WrestleMania XII

wrestlemania-xiiWrestleMania had a bounce back from the year before. So was it worth watching? I’m going to say yes on this one. You get a match that is over an hour-long for the WWF World Championship.

THE GOOD: The build to theBret Hart/Shawn Michaels match was epic, and the Iron Match itself didn’t disappoint. Well maybe it disappointed me a little, as I’ve always been a Bret fan. The “Backlot Brawl” was absurd, but in a good way. They framed this Roddy Piper/Goldust match with a gold Ford Bronco car chase, reminiscent of the one from the OJ Simpson saga the summer before. The premise itself was very silly, but still fun to watch.

THE BAD: If anything, the match for the Tag Team Championship with the Bodydonnas and the Godwinns, and the Vader/Owen Hart/British Bulldog versus Jake Roberts/Ahmed Johnson/Yokozuna one are pretty forgettable. Although I really did like the Camp Cornette Stable with Vader, Hart and Smith.

MATCH TO WATCH: It’s funny watching the Ultimate Warrior squash Hunter Hearst Helmsley in under two minutes, especially through modern eyes. You would never believe that Triple H would wind up becoming such a superstar, one of the faces of the company and now be so heavily entrenched in the behind the scenes aspect of the business from this.

WrestleMania Flashback: WrestleMania XI

wrestlemania-xiWell they all can’t be good. And not even Salt-N-Pepa could save WrestleMania XI. There was something about this event that just doesn’t make it feel special. And that’s why it’s mostly forgettable.

THE GOOD: This was part of the era where Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were always having the best (if not one of the best) matches on the card every night. So their respective matches with Bob Backlund and Diesel really carry the show.

THE BAD: The Undertaker/King Kong Bundy, well, they have  match. At least you get the trivia question of having longtime MLB umpire being the special guest referee. And what was up with all of the celebrities at WrestleMania XI? Not only was there Bam Bam Bigelow’s match with football player Lawrence Taylor (which I still don’t understand was the main event), but the rest of the show featured a who’s who of the early 1990s by having Nicholas Turturro, Jenny McCarthy and Pamela Anderson also appearing at the event.

MATCH TO WATCH: You can really skip this one. Go read a book or something instead.

WrestleMania Flashback: WrestleMania X

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I started this feature a few years back, giving me a reason to re-watch all of the WrestleManias. Unfortunately, I’m clearly a lazy blogger so this got put to the backseat for a long time. Anyway, with the WWE Network making it so easy to see all of the old pay-per-views, so I have no excuse to not finish this.

THE GOOD: WrestleMania X is a really good show. It has the Shawn Michaels/Razor Ramon ladder match that is a classic. The show’s opener, Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart, is a great match that still holds up. Not only that, but it set up a bunch of rematches and story lines for the rest of the year. At the end of the show, Bret manages to pull out a good match out of Yokozuna, reclaiming the WWF World Championship he lost a year earlier.

THE BAD: Thankfully, there isn’t that much at WrestleMania X that was bad. If anything, I’d have to say the Bam Bam Bigelow/Luna Vachon match against Doink/Dink, or the Quebecers/Men on a Mission Tag Team Championship match are pretty much skippable.

MATCH TO WATCH: Randy Savage has an awesome Falls Count Anywhere match against Crush that I really loved at the time and still do to this day. The story that built up to it is so cartoony and everything that you love about professional wrestling. Crush–who was a brightly, neon colored good guy–gets squashed by the evil Yokozuna. When he comes back, he’s super bitter and angry. Not because he was nearly crushed (see what I did there?), but because Savage, whom he thought was his best friend, didn’t send him a get well card. This sets off a huge feud between the two former friends. You read that right.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #36

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I’ll admit, I don’t remember what has happened in the last few issues of Red Hood and the Outlaws. I’m getting old; what can I say. The issue starts out with Red Hood having just taken out a whole buildings worth of thugs and his narration is about him taking the Venom (the same super-steroid that Bane gets his powers from) and just kicking ass. As he exits everything is on fire and he finds Arsenal’s quill.

Arsenal is getting dropped off at a hospital by Starfire. He’s severley burnt over most of his body but she’s not sticking around. A barely conscious Arsenal gets visited by both Red Hood and Green Arrow in their civilian gear. They have some awkward conversation about what has happened and Roy is barely coherent. Before they wind up getting into fisticuffs in the hospital, the mystical warrior Essence that Red Hood has known for a long time shows up to tell them that Roy will fully recover. Red Hood leaves to find Starfire, and Green Arrow and Arsenal have strained conversation, since they are former best friends and all.

As this goes on, Starfire goes to Poland to take some alien drugs. So I guess she’s the junkie and not Roy in this reality.

Friday Fights #26: Archangel vs. Nemesis Enforcer

archangel-vs-nemesis-enforc

Due to popular demand, we’re bringing back the old Friday Fights feature. And by popular demand, I mean that I’m actually sticking to doing my regular blog schedule again. This week pits two winged warriors against each other–Archangel takes on Nemesis Enforcer.

The one ability that both have is that they can fly, thanks to wings that are attached to their spine. Archangel’s are a form of bio-technology created by the Celestials that has been bonded to him (since, you know, his flesh and feather ones were ripped off of his body). The composition of Nemesis Enforcer’s wings are never really explained, but the fact that they can be used to rip through things and deflect gun fire seem to suggest that they are somewhat strong.

Archangel’s wings have another advantage; the fact that he can shoot off feather like razor blades (sometimes with a neurotoxin) at his enemies. The Enforcer can’t do that, but he does boast those

Future’s End: Red Hood and the Outlaws

8c_372191_0_DarkDaysThe whole concept of this series has really connected with me, with Red Hood, Starfire and Arsenal doing their own version of super heroics around the New 52 universe.

The story pretty much deals with what happens to the group in the friends, and basically none of them wind up being friends anymore. Starfire goes back to her home planet of Tamaran to take the throne, rightfully. That seems to be at the root of the break up of the group, as both Arsenal and Red Hood were at one point romantically involved with her. It’s just like Nikki Sixx used to say; chicks equal trouble.

Since then, Arsenal has attempted to become a higher profile super hero. At one point he was a member of the Justice League and took Green Arrow’s spot. I assume Green Arrow died, since his Future’s End special had a headstone on the cover. That didn’t work out to well and he’s back on his own.

Red Hood has wound up becoming a lethal vigilante ala the Punisher. This has put the two at odds with each other; they are no longer on speaking term. The rest of the issue has Red Hood plotting the deserved murder of Global Broadcasting head Morgan Edge, who has been involved in some highly evil organized crime.

Scott Lobdell does a great job with these characters and it’s a compelling story. I like how it’s all contained in a single issue. Great stuff all around and that’s why this series is currently my favorite monthly published by DC.

Future’s End: Booster Gold

01_372123_0_PressurePointI think I’ve said it before, but anything that involves Dan Jurgens writing/drawing Booster Gold is a must-have for me. Future’s End: Booster Gold falls into that category.

In this one-shot, Booster Gold is being forced to jump through time and the Multiverse, jumping from the “Gotham by Gaslight” era, to the end of the New 52’s Justice League International series where he witnesses himself disappearing from the time stream, to even the world where the Carlton characters are still around. He even winds up fighting the tiger-people from Kamandi’s future in a perfect homage to Jack Kirby.

As this is going on, there is another Booster Gold being tortured by robots under the control of Brainiac who hope to learn the secrets of time travel. Eventually the two Boosters meet up (along with his sister Michelle) and one of the Boosters winds up being willing to explain the concept of the Vanishing Point to Brainiac to save their sister. A lot of that stuff I really didn’t understand, since I’ve been avoiding the Future’s End story line.

But hey, all I wanted was some more Jurgens doing Booster Gold, and that was what this issue was all about. Plus it came with a cool lenticular cover so I have nothing to complain about.

Deathstroke #1

Sometimes all it takes is a #1 on the cover of a book to get me to buy it. That was the case with Deathstroke #1.

deathstroke1cvrI haven’t followed Deathstroke too much in the New 52, except for Rob Liefeld’s run on the character which introduced the new version of Lobo. That said, I’ve always thought the character was pretty cool and I know that Tony Daniel gets a lot of positive buzz.

So what did I think?

Deathstroke is off to Russia on a job, to take out someone who looks to be another metahuman assassin named Possum. He doesn’t know who is paying him for this. I think if I were an assassin, I would want to know this sort of thing. This is set up of some sort; he winds up being set up and chased by a small army. A really beaten and bloody Deathstroke instinctively looks for this old monk named I-Ching. I mean, what luck would you have to have to not only have someone to turn to in the middle of Russia, let alone would be conveniently located for you to walk to after you’ve had half of your head shot off.

Deathstroke wakes up in front of a group of monks who have apparently saved him and allude to having hired him to come to Russia in the first place. He now owes them, as they have saved him from certain death. The last page has him standing, looking much younger, mostly recovered and having both of his eyes.

This is how you do a first issue kids. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

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.

Uncanny X-Men #158 and 159: The Time They Broke Into the Pentagon

Uncanny-X-Men-158Talk about two issues that have completely different plots! Uncanny X-Men  #158 and 159 have the X-Men travelling between Washington DC and Manhattan.

In issue #158 Storms and Wolverine go about breaking into the Pentagon to delete all the files that the military has about the X-Men. They do this because Ms. Marvel has been hanging out with them and happens to have the credentials to get them in the door. This is also the type of plot you get when your writer, in this case Chris Claremont, is writing two different comic series at the same time and wants a crossover.

While in the Pentagon, Wolvie and Storm wind up throwing down with both Rogue and Mystique, who are independently getting into trouble there. It’s just a weird series of events, and I think it ended with Ms. Marvel deleting some of the information that the Pentagon had on her.

uncanny-x-men-159.Issue #159 has the X-Men dealing with Storm, who has been been turned into a vampire thanks to a vampire bite from Dracula.

You read that right…Dracula.

The X-Men race to find a cure but aren’t successful. There is lots of fighting with the new and vampire improved Storm, who royally kicks the crap out of them.

Then in a weird twist of niceness, Dracula shows that he isn’t really that bad of a guy and returns her to her normal form. Total waste of an issue.

Uncanny X-Men #154: When Dad Comes To Visit

uncanny-x-men-154I read some more Uncanny X-Men from the Chris Claremont era. This issue seems to have a million different artists on it (including Dave Cockrum and Bob Wiacek) and starts off in typical Claremont fashion with the X-Men in the Danger Room.

Activity time doesn’t last too long, as Corsair and the Starjammers pay a visit to the X-Men. Along the way they manage to stop an alien invasion of some sort, Corsair reveals to Cyclops that he is his father (which the uni-eyed hero doesn’t or doesn’t want to believe) and it’s revealed   that the Shi’ar are blaming the good people of Earth and the Starjammers for the disappearance of their beloved empress Lilandra.

Along the way we get to see Professor X in one of the worst outfits that he’s ever graced a comic book in: a yellow safari outfit, complete with hat. He looks like he’s more mentally equipped to be a zookeeper that looks after Curious George instead of being the premier advocate of mutant kind. But then again, it’s the eighties everyone.

Uncanny X-Men #139: Exposition Junction

The X-Men are still reeling from the loss of Jean Grey (who died as a result of the whole Dark Phoenix Saga) and Cyclops (who has gone on leave, since his girlfriend was Jean and all). That said, there is a lot of exposition in this issue from the Claremont/Byrne era..

The team is getting used to having Storm calling the shots, which isn’t too much of a problem for anyone. Angel is still trying to work his way back into the team, and, well, sucks at it.

Kitty Pryde has officially joined the X-Men as an active member, and there’s a series of panels of her trying to come up with a code name that is just so annoying. No wonder everyone thought she was so insufferable.

The most interesting part of the comics is the Wolverine and Nightcrawler subplot, with them going off to Canada to resolve some of Wolvie’s unfinished business with the government and wind up going Wendigo hunting. It also seems to be the first issue of Wolvie in his brown/yellow costume and the first instance of him being called Logan to boot.

Figment #2

It makes perfect sense that Marvel would put out some Disney-themed comics. When they announced that there would be a Figment series, I will admit that I was a little skeptical. The little purple dragon is one of the most beloved characters in all of the Disney Parks and has a lot of emotional cache. It would be hard to do him justice. 

But the creative team of Jim Zub and Filipe Andrade managed to do it.

The second issue has Figment and the Dreamfinder–who has the birth name of Blarion Mercurial–traveling into another dimension through some sort of interdimensional riff. As they explore a realm with furry creatures and small elves that look like they were straight out of Avatar, alien robots are coming through into London.

Figment is a very light, whimsical fantasy book that is suitable for all ages. It reminds me of the Adventure Time comics in a way. But what makes this a good read is that it captures the spirit of the original theme park ride.