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?

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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!

New Mutants #87

New Mutants #87

New Mutants #87

New Mutants #87 introduces Cable to the Marvel Universe. It’s not every month a character who is going to have this big an impact on the series debuts every month.

Not only did Cable debut in this issue but his primary nemesis Stryfe does as well. Stryfe is part of a group of terrorist mutants called the Mutant Liberation Front. They’re attempting to rescue the incarcerated New Mutants Rusty and Skids. And by rescue, I mean wind up brainwashing them into joining their ranks.

As this is going on, Cable shows up in an attempt to stop Stryfe from abducting the duo. The book ends with the MLF escaping and Cable being locked up by the government, as he was blamed for the attack.

What this issue did was set up the last year of the series, as well as it’s relaunch/metamorphosis into X-Force. In the issue, it wasn’t very clear why Cable needed to protect Rusty, Skids or the rest of the New Mutants, but it was established that there was some reason he would not accept them joining Stryfe’s forces. There’s a lot of mystery about what is going on and it does get explained in later issues.

New Mutants #87 is also pretty cool in my book, as it’s a collaboration between writer Louise Simonson and artist Rob Liefeld, both of whom I am a pretty big fan of

Kid Colt #1

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Cowboy comics are one subgenre that has disappeared. Cowboys in general have fallen off the popular culture landscape since the late 1960s. The Kid Colt one-shot by Tom DeFalco and Rick Burchett is an adventure featuring Kid Colt, one of the premier cowboys from Marvel’s history.

The story is very straight forward; it’s a retelling of Kid Colt’s origin and early days through the narration of a man named Everett (I wonder if that was a conscious nod to longtime Marvel creator Bill Everett). The sheriffs are out to find the young cowboy, who has been erroneously charged with the murder of a farmer. Everett is helping Kid Colt clear his name, and along the way there is all the action that you would expect in a cowboy comic book.

This was a fine read; Burchett’s art worked well with the story. This is worth checking out, especially if you’ve never read a cowboy story before. Who knows; you might even like it!

Torch #1

 

torch-1This is another “tales from the quarter bin” comic. The Torch #1 came out in the fall of 2009, but what makes it odd that the series seems to have been published through a partnership between Marvel and Dynamite. The mini-series  is about the original Human Torch Jim Hammond.

Hammond–an android who can burst into flames–is one of the most underused of Marvel’s original “big three” characters. Captain America and Namor been fixtures of the Marvel Universe, but he seems to get the short end of the stick mostly due to Johnny Storm flying around with his name.

Any who, Hammond isn’t featured too much in the first issue. Toro–his didekick–has been resurrected and hates his life. He’s largely forgotten, his girlfriend moved on, and he’s finding it hard getting used to being alive after being a corpse since the end of World War II. Toro decides to avenge his death by killing his murderer, the villainous Mad Tinkerer. Conveniently as this is going on, Tinkerer is working for Norman Osbron to replicate the science that created both Toro and Jim Hammond. The issue ends with Toro captured and Hammond’s remains being exhumed.

This seems like it could be a fun series to me, especially knowing my love of second tier characters. The mini-series also has awesome covers from Alex Ross. The good thing is that this whole mini-series is featured on Marvel Unlimited which I subscribe to, so expect some more discussion about this in the near future.

 

Justice League International #7-12: Booster Has A Breakdown

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We are back! I finally got around to looking at the last six issues of Justice League International. This was the second series from the New 52 that I was really excited about that happened to get cancelled. So what happens to the Booster Gold lead group on their final mission?

This final story arc starts with a bang, as the group gets attacked during a public event by a new villain named Breakdown. This guy–along with his squad of villains–wants the world to descend into chaos and anarchy, and what better way to start that campaign by taking out one of the premier super groups while the world watches. There are countless casualties; Rocket Red and some of the JLI’s support staffers were killed. Ice, Fire and Vixen have all been seriously injured.

The rest is a pretty by the numbers super hero story. Booster recruits some new members to the team, including OMAC and Batwing (well, more so Batman brought him to the fold since they’re besties). JLI has to put aside all their fears and what has just happened to them in order to save the world, which they do. The final issue ties up all the loose ends of the series, with the team on the verge of disbandment until Batman is able to secure them a new headquarters and financial support from Bruce Wayne. It’s also stressed that they feel they have to carry on so Rocket Red will not have died in vain. 

The biggest problem that I had with this–and one of my biggest complaints about the whole New 52–is that for some reason, it seems really hard to take any of the villains seriously. They’re all new, for the most part, and seem really generic. Not to mention, not all that threatening. Breakdown’s crew just seemed lacking and it was hard to believe that they were really that much of a threat.

That said, the ending was really weird, especially since it was the last issue of the series. It sets up a pretty firm new status quo and that the story would be continuing as opposed to stopping cold. I don’t think you can blame Dan Jurgens writing for that; perhaps he wasn’t told that the twelfth issue would be the last. 

I still think that Justice League International still has a lot of life in it as a concept, as the lesser super hero team in the DC Universe. I hope that we get to see the members of the team make more appearances in stories to come. 

Batman The Dark Knight: Golden Dawn

golden-dawn

It might be because I’ve read a lot of early 1990s Spider-Man books lately, but David Finch really reminds me of a modern Todd McFarlane, as far as being a superstar artist who gets to write his books as well as dark, more horror-tinged artistic stylings. Not to mention, they’re both Canadian. That said, Batman The Dark Knight: Golden Dawn really reminded me of something that McFarlane might have done.

The main story in this collection is from Batman: The Dark Knight  #1-5 and focuses on a new character named Dawn Golden (which if you flip her name around, becomes a really cool title for the story…get it?). Bruce was friends with her as a child and has turned up missing. Anyway, her disappearance was due for her jilting the affection of the Penguin who with the help of Killer Croc has her kidnapped. It read like there was some sort of ‘dinner with schmucks’ kind of a thing between Dawn and the Penguin. This part I get and then it becomes really confusing.

It turns out that Dawn’s father was a longtime occultist who for some reason needed to kill Dawn so he could open the gates of hell as part of a plan to demonically rule the earth. He’s come back from the dead to murder her. Somehow Ragman gets possessed twice in this story; the first time by underworld queen Lady Blaze to recruit Etrigan the Demon to her side. Batman wounds up talking Etrigan out of this, and the two are in a race to stop Dawn’s father Aleister (who is using Ragman as a conduit to return to the Earth and kill his daughter in part of some sort of demonic ritual). Dawn gets killed as part of this but Aleister doesn’t succeed in bringing hell to earth and Batman is sad that Dawn is dead. Not to mention there was some other subplots going on, including Commissioner Gordon dealing with an upstart detective, as well as another with a child named Mira who was trying to steal the Batmobile as collateral to rescue her father.

So what did I think?

Well on the art side of things, Finch is great at drawing the more supernatural/horror style super hero comics. He draws monsters, demons and even Killer Croc in a monstrous way. At times his depictions of Lady Blaze and Dawn veered to far into the cheesecake realm. But on a whole, he knows how to render a dark and scary world for Batman to explore.

On the writing side, I’m pretty sure that this was Finch’s first project. His concepts made sense, but I really think he needed a co-writer for this. At times, the pacing was off and felt like he was trying to have too much going on.  I guess the good thing about him writing and drawing the book is that he knows what to script to play to his artistic strengths. I wonder if his future projects involve in that regard.

Since this was a collected volume, they threw in some extras. Finch teamed up with Grant Morrison for Batman: The Return which is a great story of Batman setting up his Batman, Inc. super hero franchise. Now that I think about it, I would really like to see more Morrison/Finch Batman stuff. The final extra is a two-page story from Superman/Batman #75 with Conner Kent and Daman Wayne in the future paying tribute to the men who preceded them as Superman and Batman.

Golden Dawn is beautifully rendered; there is no questioning that. But I think the audience of this is a little narrow, mostly to Finch fans. So if you’re one of his fans–or appreciate dark, horror comic art you will love this.

Chromium Comic Book Covers…In 2013?

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Yes. The holographic/shiny/magic foil covers are back. Brian MIchael Bendis tweeted this picture today of the upcoming chromium cover version of Age of Ultron: Book 1 and it brings back memories of the “OMG everything is a collector’s item” zeitgeist of the 1990s.

If you weren’t following comics during that period, you really missed out on some craziness. Comic book sales were near an all time high, not necessarily due to the comics themselves being all that great or due to people really enjoying comics that much. The comic book market had been taken hostage by speculators–people buying comics in bulk in the assumption that they would be able to flip it and turn a monster profit. The publishers were more than happy to placate them, with all kinds of gimmick stories (ranging from the Death of Superman to title relaunches) to placate them. They also created what felt like a million different types of covers–hologram, pop-up, and even a Colorforms type–to get people to buy more comics. Although it was a great idea at the time, it almost killed the whole industry by the later part of the mid 1990s when the speculators realized that they couldn’t charge a premium for something that had a print run of over 500,000.

So with Marvel bringing back the chromium for this is truly for novelty sake. When each publisher has ten chromium covers a month, then we can panic.

Cyberforce #1-2

cyberforce

Top Cow’s new Kickstarter-supported Cyber Force is a lot of fun. And even better, it’s free.

Series creator Marc Silvestri teams up Top Cow’s president Matt Hawkins to bring back the these characters in a new revamped format. I guess I’m lucky going into this not remembering too much of my Cyber Force history, as they took the concept and started it from scratch.

Our story is set in the generally boring city of Pittsburgh, which has been rebuilt by the evil conglomerate CDI. Now renaming the home of the Penguins Millennium City, the company looks to have some sort of diabolical plan in motion (I assume global domination; it’s a comic book after all). They accomplished this with a secret army of hybrid human/robots. The only person who is both aware of this and can stop it is a teenage girl codenamed Velocity, the cyber enhanced daughter of CDI’s president.

The only people she can turn to are a bunch of renegade/decommissioned former CDI hybrids. The most popular of the original Cyberforcers, Ripclaw, is the first to be recruited after the company murders his wife and daughter. By the end of the second issue, the two go off to find the original Cyber Force leader Stryker, who has been hiding out with the civilians (normal people) leading a quiet life as a toll collector. The question at the end is will he go out of hiding and resume his war against the evil CDI.

The story really picks up by the second issue. The best way I can explain it is that it’s a tale of a dystopian future, like Terminator 2: Judgement Day or the worlds George Orwell created, with an evil government/authority that has little regard for its subjects and there is a counter movement bent on stopping it. What it then adds is a touch of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns with Stryker happily living a life off the grid on his own, but now he’s being provoked into getting back into life as a commando.

The story is a lot of fun and you can’t beat reading it, as it’s a free monthly installment. So if you pick this up, thank the generous people who funded the project. Eventually it’s going to be released as a hardcover and I think it’ll be a great read in that format. On the art side, Khoi Pham does a great job conjuring up his inner Silvestri.

The new Cyber Force gets a thumbs up. It’s less of a super hero comic and definitely on the science fiction end of the theme spectrum. You can check these out for free over at Comixology.

Superman #7-8: Superman vs. Helspont

SUPERMAN-7

Aliens Attack!

As much as Rob Liefeld and the rest of the Image Comics gang made a mark on my comics reading during the early 1990s, but so did Superman. Between my brother and I, we had every issue of the four Superman monthly series till right around the Death of Superman era. So needless to say, a comic book story having Superman face off against Helspont would get my attention, but with art by Dan Jurgens (who was THE Superman artist during that period but in my mind) this was definitely something I had to check out.

The story is two-fold. Superman has to deal with being abducted and harassed by Helspont. This evil Daemomite seems to have been elevated to big time player in the New 52, between this and all of his exposure in other books.

Helspont is trying to appeal to Superman in attempt to join forces; having the last Kryptonian on his side would make his plans for domination much easier.The villain also brings the point up that eventually mankind will betray him, as they fear his power and the threat of his rule. And this leads to a moral debate between the two, with Superman turning down the offer as he loves the people of Earth. I guess it shows that for all the differences between the past and the modern DC universe, Superman is still the same, costume changes be damned. The humanity that Ma and Pa Kent taught him really shaped his values. Superman’s life is destined to walk among the humans, helping them when he has to because he’s the only person who can help them.

As Superman is fighting for his freedom, there are some subplots going on with Clark Kent’s coworker friends at the Daily Planet. He was supposed to pick up Lois Lane’s sister Lucy at the airport, but the whole Helspont ordeal had him preoccupied. At the same time, Jimmy Olsen is moving into Clark’s apartment on a temporary basis, as his place is filled with bedbugs.

What you had in these two issues was a Superman that I was really familiar with. Jurgens knows how to draw and write a Superman comic book. So does his co-writer Keith Giffen, as he certainly knows how to write compelling super heroes outside of their costumes; see his JLI/E/A stuff for example. The result is a Superman that is still very new, but completely familiar at the same time.

Hawkman #9

hawkman-9

 

Hawkman is one of those characters that on the surface seems like he could be really fun to read, but unfortunately years (and years) of crazy continuity make it a daunting task. I picked up Hawkman #9 because of Rob Liefeld, but it was the creative team as a whole that made me enjoy the book so much.

Co-written by Mark Poulton, it starts off a new story arc for Hawkman. As someone who really isn’t up on the character, it was pretty straightforward to get into. Carter Hall has the magical Nth metal armor, except this version has it originating from inside him like the Guyver. Possessing such a weapon makes him quite the target, as he keeps getting harassed by mercenaries trying to forcibly remove his armor. The issue ends with Carter speaking with Emma, a female friend and colleague of his. This wraps up rather quickly as they get attacked; Carter is kidnapped by an “antiquities”/weapons dealer who wants the armor named Xerxes.

The art on this book is by Joe Bennet is pretty sweet; I always seem to forget about him and his projects. This was a quick but fun read. I’ll probably finish the arc at some point later on.

Marvel Team Up #127: Spider-Man Teaches The Watcher The True Meaning Of Christmas

Yes, you’ve read that right

Marvel Team Up #127 is a Christmas story. It’s the night before Christmas, and Peter Parker is bringing presents to a holiday party with Aunt May and her geriatric friends. To get brownie points, he keeps telling the ladies there that they look like Elizabeth Taylor, who was a fashion idol to old ladies in the early 1980s. Much to his chagrin, these silver foxes wind up forcing him under the mistletoe.

Mr. Chekov–not the Star Trek navigator but an old beatnik–is very sad that his granddaughter Bette is missing. She was supposed to be in attendance but has been out of communication, much to her grandfather’s dismay. For whatever reason, Uatu the Watcher–a large alien that basically watches the Earth to record its history. He’s feeling the magic of the season, and has appointed Spidey to find Bette and save Christmas.

As an aside, I love looking at advertisements in old comic books. The best is a goofy Marvel comics subscription ad with Magneto, Doctor Octopus and Doctor Doom out Christmas caroling. What is even more amazing is the deal they are offering. Six dollars for an annual subscription. It gets even cheaper; the third and any other subscriptions you buy are only $4. That’s amazing.

It’s off to Brooklyn to find her. Apparently she’s gotten involved with a drug dealer named Buck who has a bunch of cocaine that they stole off of the mob. They’re on the run, and both Spidey and the mob have found them. While being chased, Bette drops a brick of cocaine into the snow, which leads to the mob gunning her down. But the whole scene looked like it was out of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.

This is turning into the worst Christmas Eve ever, with Spider-Man standing over Bette’s dying body, scolding the Watcher for not doing anything to help save the woman’s life. Uatu decides to finally get involved in a way that didn’t interfere with his “observe only” life mission, helping stabilize her condition and directing Spidey to the nearest hospital. Better survives and is reunited in a touching scene with her grandfather.

The last page of the book is a monologue with Uatu describing what happend and how humbled he was that he could finally participate in the human condition, to the point that he was crying. It’s something when you can make a creature whose soul duty is to observe everything get emotionally involved. This issue was written by J.M. DeMatteis and it’s a great example on how good a storyteller he was.

This issue was a fun holiday tale and helps get you in the holiday spirit. After all, there are only 54 shopping days till Christmas!

Hawk and Dove #8

Here it is…the final issue of Hawk and Dove. Our avian avatars have teamed up with Xyra to make sure they survive the prophecy that leads to their deaths.

Issue #8 is pretty much a pay-off issue for the story, in a sense that this is where all of the action happens. They storm the cult’s headquarters–conveniently located in Washington, DC just like them. Hawk creates a diversion against the cult, which is a bunch of ninjas clad in white just like Storm Shadow, giving Dove and Xyra breaking in on the other side of the building, fighting even more ninjas.

D’Khan, the avatar of flying lizards (which seems like a natural predator of birds if they were to have existed) finally appears and battles the two women. Dove gets the best of him, but can’t bring herself to kill him which D’Khan takes advantage of and beats the snot out of her. Eventually Hawk catches up with them and he has no qualms killing D’Khan. At no point does Hawk ever wind up in a point where he would kill Dove, so either they forgot about that part of the prophecy or it turned out to just be false. Xyra thanks the duo for their help, saying that they will always have an ally between her and her cult.

The book ends with Hank and Dove sitting on a rooftop, going over the last eight issues and then getting back to work stopping criminals in DC. It’s kind of a flat ending, as the weird relationship tension between the two is never addressed (let alone resolved).

Liefeld had some help on the art by longtime collaborator Marat Mychaels, and it’s amazing how the two draw so similarly. This was the first issue of the series where I had strong feelings negatively about the art. There were a few pages that felt like they were scanned at too low of a resolution and they tried to overcompensate with over the top coloring. That, and there was one page where it’s revealed that Dove and Xyra have exactly the same haircut/face and it looked like they were twins.

As a whole, I enjoyed the Hawk and Dove series while it lasted. Was it groundbreaking and a classic? Definitely not. But by no means it wasn’t a fun read. It’s pure super hero mayhem and nothing more. I  picked up this book solely for the fact that I’ve always liked the characters, an appreciation of Liefeld’s art, and really liking his run on the title back in the early 1990s, before he blew up during his New Mutants/X-Force phase.

Maybe with some stronger writing, this book would have lasted longer. Hell, if it was Geoff Johns and Liefeld’s book, it would have been a blockbuster seller. But for what it was, I enjoyed it and I can’t wait to see the characters surface again.

Hawk and Dove #7

The answer is yes: Hawk and Dove #7 does start out looking like a Dazzler comic book from the early eighties. The next-to-last issue in Rob Liefeld’s series starts out with Dawn and Hank (which I just noticed almost sound like their respective code names) at a very disco-like environment…they’re out at the club.

And as you can see, Liefeld has Dawn all decked out in the most skin-tight dress he could draw. Dawn is pretty bummed; her boyfriend Deadman dumped her so she’s out looking to pick up dudes. And this night she brings Hank along, who only starts a huge brawl once someone gets too close to her for his comfort.

Outside, they get into a huge argument, with Hank getting more and more misogynistic in a rant about why she can’t go dressed out like that and how he always has to protect her because all men are creeps (except for him). The whole scene is awkward, as Hank has never really expressed interest in her romantically. His over-protectiveness is just odd, and thankfully it’s ended when the two are attacked by some random villain that looks like Kraven the Hunter and Deathstroke the Terminator’s lovechild, simply named the Hunter. He kind of beats the crap out of them, cutting off the finger (or as he called it Talon) of Hawk and a bunch of Dawn’s hair. Hunter gets scared off by this woman named Xyra, who looks like a grown up version of Freefall from Gen 13.

While recovering back at their apartment, Xyra explains that she’s part of a long running secret society that has been worshiping the hawk avatar and that the Hunter works for some cleric named D’Yek, who coincidentally is part of an anti-hawk group that plans on destroying him (thus needing their hair/finger for totems in a magical spell). All the while, Dawn is standing around in her bra and panties, and a very open bathrobe showing off her goods. No wonder Hank is so overprotective of her; she’s always throwing herself at people!

The book ends with D’Yek and Hunter talking at their own secret lair discussing how they will destroy the Hawk avatar and that according to old prophecies Hawk will kill Dove, a nod to the prior continuity of how the same happened when Hawk was Monarch during Armageddon 2001. It also makes me feel really old remembering that was in all the comics advertisements of stuff I was reading twenty years ago.

So the stage is set for the final issue of the series. Will Hawk get killed by the Hunter and D’Yek? Will Hawk kill Dove? Probably not. But will I miss this series? That’s a yes.

The Savage Dragon #1

Comparing Spawn #1 and The Savage Dragon #1 is like comparing night and day. This first issue of Erik Larsen’s reptilian super cop from Chicago is still an awesome comic twenty years later.

The first issue is just like a great pilot episode for a television show. It introduces you to the primary characters and sets the tone for the story. Dragon is an amnesiac who has volunteered to fight the ever increasing war on crime in Chicago, as the city is being plagued by super powered villains.

And it sets up that as the series progresses, the audience will find out more about the Dragon’s back story and why Chicago is such a hell hole.

Larsen did a great job of setting up the status quo for the series in a single issue. If there was a class on comics writing and introducing a new character and series, this would be required reading.

It’s also a textbook example of the pop culture trend in the early 1990s: the anti-hero cop. There’s a lot of Bruce Willis’s John McClane from Die Hard in this character, and he’s armed to the gills like every character Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jean Claude Van Damme ever played.

The Savage Dragon’s first issue does a great job of setting up the series. It makes me want to re-read the issues that I have and track down some more.

Spider-Man: Masques

Let’s remember 1991! I just finished reading Spider-Man: Masques, which collects a bunch of issues from the adjective-less Spider-Man book from the Todd McFarlane era. And by judging the art and story in this collection, he’s already got his mind set in the direction he would take with Spawn.

That said, Masques features two stories set in darker, supernatural world. The first one has Spider-Man facing off against Hobgoblin, who is now a demon on a mission from God to rid the world of sinners. The plot gets a little wonky at this point, as Hobgoblin has abducted the son of a woman he murdered. Little Adam believes Hobgoblin is an angel of some sort. Taking a child is enough to get Spider-Man’s attention.

Ghost Rider takes interest in this for two reasons:

  1. Hobgoblin is killing innocent people, which always get his dander.
  2. It’s 1991. Ghost Rider’s popularity is at its peak and he has to make as many cameo appearances as inhumanly possible.

Our heroes wind up chasing Hobgoblin all over New York, with the biggest problem being that Ghost Rider is more concerned with killing Hobgoblin than ensuring the boy’s safety. The story ends kind of abruptly with Spider-Man stopping Ghost Rider, who intends on beating the villain to death. The story ends with Spidey giving a lecture on justice not necessarily meaning vengeance, Ghost Rider blowing him off and McFarlane getting to draw two issues worth of chains all over the place.

The second act is Spider-Man donning the old’ black Venom style suit, as he literally goes underground to investigate people disappearing all over Manhattan. It turns out the homeless people living in the subway have been feeding “sinners” to on-again, off-again hero/villain vampire Morbius to quench his bloodthirsty.

Unfortunately, Spidey has to inform him that he’s been fed people who aren’t criminals. Morbius is pretty upset about this revelation; he goes nuts attacking the homeless people and then runs of on his own, presumably to start his new solo series. Again, this is from the early 1990s, so it’s the second height of Marvel’s super natural hero popularity.

These stories really look like they could have been out of Spawn. The backgrounds, the panel layout, even the homeless people who resembled the Vindicator all show up. The ties between Spider-Man and Spawn aesthetically speaking are really strong.

The final story is a crossover with X-Force. You can’t get much more 1990s comic art then this, with both McFarlane and Rob Liefeld teaming up. This comic just might be the birth of “widescreen” comic books, as the art is laid out on the page lengthwise. This is pretty much what you would expect; its sheer visual mayhem.

What you might not expect is the story; longtime mutant terrorists Juggernaut and Black Tom team up some mercenaries in an attack leading to the destruction of the upper half of one of the World Trade Center’s towers. It’s very uncomfortable reading this story in a post 9/11 world, as the background imagery is eerily similar to the actual. I hadn’t read this since college, and completely forgot about this.

Spider-Man: Masques is a nostalgia book, for anyone who grew up reading comics during the 1990s. It sums up everything in comics at that point on the Marvel end: superstar artists, X-Men characters, supernatural plot lines, everything.  It might not hold up that well, but it’s a great look back at that era.

Grant Morrison’s Action Comics

Who is the best writer currently at DC? I’ll give you a hint; tt’s not Geoff Johns. It’s Grant Morrison, and his re imagining of Superman in the new Action Comics is just another example. 

This isn’t the first time we’ve read a Morrison-ized version of Superman; we first saw that starting in 2005’s All Star Superman. In his latest project, he does something completely different.

The Clark Kent in Action Comics is more of an every-man than a superman. He goes around stopping criminals, ranging from low street level types to corrupt business and government officials. This mysterious alien vigilante–clad only in a t-shirt, jeans and cape–has caught the attention of a military, especially General Lane (Lois’ dad) who has allied himself with a kindred spirit in Lex Luthor. Both of them have their own reasons why a super powered alien is a menace to society.

All of that changes when a secret deal that Luthor made with Brainiac backfires, and the city of Metropolis is taken by the evil sentient alien. They have no choice to trust Superman. All the while, Clark is having a hard time making ends meet just starting out as a reporter in Metropolis.

What makes this all work is how everything makes sense. Luthor doesn’t want Superman around, as it exposes the deal he made with Brainiac. General Lane has is own reservations, especially since his daughter is following Superman around. Even the origin of the Superman outfit makes sense; Clark finds it (turns out, the suit is Kryptonian battle armor) on board the ship that sent him to earth once he recovers it from the government.

There’s some other shorter stories included in this volume. One of them is Clark Kent meeting the Legion of Super Heroes for the first time with art by Andy Kubert. I really didn’t get into this that much, but mostly because I’ve never been able to get into those characters. But its important to the whole Superboy and future of DC mythos.

Action Comics is just a lot of fun. It’s a different, more modern take on a classic concept. It reminds me a lot of the original Ultimate Spider-Man series. You should definitely check this out.

Nightwing #0

Nightwing #0 was a damn good comic book. It gives a look back to how Dick Grayson wound up joining Batman’s crusade. What I like about this is how it doesn’t attempt to create a new and radically revamped origin; it just enhances the story we already know.

Dick was an orphaned circus performer after his parents were gunned down by the mob. But how exactly did Bruce Wayne wind up getting custody of him? Quite simple; he was to hide out at Wayne Manor until his parents’ murderer was apprehended. There was a bit of a bond with Bruce and Dick, for both having gone through such an ordeal.

But what writer Tom DeFalco added to the mythology was how Dick much smarter than Bruce ever imagined, not only figuring out that he was Batman but helping bring in the murderers. Dick proved to be someone competent enough to become Batman’s partner in crime-fighting.

I like it because this felt like an old silver age story. A lot of fun and a quick read, but superb for the Batman purist.

Hawk and Dove #6

I’ve really been making a dent in my “to read” pile. Hawk and Dove #6 is a one shot with the avatars of peace and war going on a vacation to lovely Gotham City.

They’ve been chasing the New 52-ized Blockbuster who has stolen the Amulet of Ra from the Smithsonian Institute, only to encounter and then team up with Batman and Robin. It’s part of what happens when you visit that city.

So the three birds and the bat team up to stop Blockbuster, who is working with this sorceress Necromancer to collect these mystical totems like the Amulet to get some sort of magical powers. Obviously, our heroes aren’t impressed. They save the day; Hawk and Dove are on their way back home to Washington DC.

The issue was written and drawn by Rob Liefeld and is suited to his strengths. It’s pretty much a full issue of fights and such. I did like the way he had Damien as Robin characterized as being pretty an ass. Stands up on its own decently.