Saturday, April 25, 2015

Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: Black Vortex Omega #1

   Brian Michael Bendis is an excellent writer, but he seems to have a weak point: event books.

   He's cooked up some of the most famous in recent history - but Black Vortex isn't one of them.

   It's been a rambling, overextended story that starts with a big MacGuffin - the Black Vortex is a cosmic mirror (of sorts) that amplifies the abilities of those who look into it.

   So we have a bunch of heroes and villains getting amped up and fighting and destruction looms.

   There are certainly some clever twists and sharp dialogue, and the artwork is very good (if a bit hard to follow here and there), but the ending is muddled (which is to say, I'm not sure exactly what happened to all the characters and their powers).

   There is a significant personal event at the end that long-time readers will either love or hate. I'm somewhere in the middle.

   It's how I feel about the whole event - some things to like, some to not like so much. A real mixed bag.

Grade: B-


Friday, April 24, 2015

Convergence: Hawkman #1 (of 2)

   OK, I admit that I said I was going to avoid the Convergence series (something most fans are apparently doing, according to reports).

   What makes it difficult is the inclusion of classic versions of characters I love - and here we have "my" Hawkman and Hawkwoman - the Thanagarian police officers visiting Earth to learn about police techniques - but that still wasn't enough to get me to buy this issue.

   What sold me on it was the artist. Tim Truman has been a favorite of mine since his days on Scout and Grimjack - and Hawkworld, of course.

   This issue actually takes us back to the time of the Shadow War, with the Hawks trying to protect the Earth from a secret attack by their home planet Thanagar.

   With a sharp script by Jeff Parker, this issue (wisely) avoids most of the Convergence trappings, and focuses on a plot by the Thanagarians to build a special weapon.

   As always, the art is terrific - Truman's art has a powerful, kinetic and earthy look to it - part Joe Kubert, part Ralph Reese, and all original. Wonderful stuff!

   I still think the idea behind this event is dopey - but if it brings us more Truman art, it's hard to be too upset.

   So apparently I'm buying one Convergence book after all.

Grade: A-



Thursday, April 23, 2015

All-New X-Men #40

   While we usually avoid spoilers here, one of the "big events" in this issue of All-New X-Men was splashed all over the news feeds, so I assume you've heard about it.

   If not, you've been warned.

   So, it turns out we didn't know Iceman as well as we thought. He's gay.

   And to be honest, I'm not sure how to react to it.

   I watched as social media blew up over it this week. Some were outraged because it was a radical change for a character who's been around for over 50 years and has never (to my knowledge) shown interest in anything but girls. He's dated and chased quite a few over the years, though admittedly he's had limited success. I don't think gay guys have a corner on that.

   Some were outraged because some fans didn't like it. Why shouldn't he be gay? Why couldn't he be gay? And that's valid - there are plenty of gay men and women who lived "straight" lives before admitting to themselves (and the world) that they were gay.

   The only problem I have with it is that it feels like nothing more than a publicity stunt - something that came out of left field, with no threads leading up to it. Retcons (if such this is) are tricky enough when they're planned carefully. This one seemed to be plucked out of the air.

   Making it even more - odd - is the fact that we're talking about the original Iceman, who's been brought through time to the modern day. But the present-day Iceman isn't gay (according to this issue). How does that work? Is this an unexpected side-effect to time travel? Is Marvel trying to have things both ways?

   It just doesn't feel... well thought-out.

   Do I care that Iceman is now gay? Nope. It doesn't change anything about the character - he's still a smart-aleck, heroic mutant who is a founding member of one of the greatest teams in the history of comics.

   The only thing I don't like is the ham-handed way it was managed. Look, mutants in Marvel's line have always represented the underdog - nerds, minorities, anyone who's different and trying to cope with the world at large.

   It's great that a gay kid reading this comic has a hero to identify with, and if it helps that kid get through life's struggles in the same way that those heroes helped young Chuck cope with being a bookworm and a science fiction fan, then I'm all for it.

Grade: A-



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Classics - Justice League of America #29 & 30

   My favorite issues of the original Justice League of America were the annual crossovers between Earth-1 and Earth-2 as the heroes teamed up with the Justice Society of America.

   But if I had to pick my favorite of those crossovers, it would probably be this story from 1964, as the heroes of both worlds faced an invasion from Earth-3.

   The story by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky broke the usual mold for such stories (heroes meet, split into teams to fight threat, then team up at the end for the final victory).

   Instead, the JLA and the JSA barely even meet, and that not until the end of the first issue.

   This time around, the super-powered Crime Syndicate of America - made up of Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick and Power Ring - discovers the existence of alternate Earths, and decides to fight the heroes of Earth-1.

   I love the reason for the conflict. The bad guys feel that they're getting complacent, because there are no super-powered opponents on their world. They need a challenge.

 Over the course of the two issues, the JLA and the CSA face off three times, and the JSA and the CSA once. It works because the bad guys are powerful (in unexpected but logical ways) and clever, and the pairings (opponents) are not the ones you might expect - in other words, it was a great matchup for the heroic teams.

   Oh, a few of their tactics are really dirty pool (as they snatch victory from the jaws of defeat), and the final disposal of the bad guys is downright silly - but the story is loaded with action, surprising twists and fun visuals.

   Best of all, the teams face an opponent that can challenge them on every level - a true rarity in the early adventures in the series.

   You really got the sense that the creative team enjoyed these stories, as it allowed them to resurrect classic characters and breath new life into the series, weaving epic stories on a large scale.

   I loved it!

Grade: A


New Comics Day

   Another light week for your pal Chuck. Here's what I picked up at the comics shop today: 

- Black Vortex Omega #1 - Wrapping up the "event" with a surprise!

- Convergence: Hawkman #1 (of 2) - I know, I swore off this series - but gotta buy this for the Tim Truman art.

- Guardians of the Galaxy #26 - Vote for Star-Lord.

- Hulk #15 - Red vs. Green.

- Star Wars #4 - Vader gates allies.

- Uncle Scrooge #1 - Glad to see this series back in print!

- All-New X-Men #40 - Iceman is gay?

   And that's it!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fathom: Kiani #3 (of 4)

   The battle between the Blue and the air-breathing part of the world continues in the mini-series Fathom: Kiani.

   It focuses on the water-breathing warrior women Kiani and Anika, who were nearly defeated by a new bio-weapon - a hybrid terrorist powered by grey matter, which is poisonous to the members of the Blue.

   As the issue begins, the women are rescued by a mysterious ally - but is he really trying to help them, or does he have another agenda?

   It's a solid enough issue, with striking artwork by Giuseppe Cafaro - who certainly knows how to draw lovely, powerful women - and a good script by Vince Hernandez.

   But it spends a little too much time on exposition, as we learn about the source of the attack - and their new benefactor.

   Still, there's lots of action and intrigue going on, and the reader will find himself (or herself) drawn to the next issue to see how it all falls out.

Grade: B+


Monday, April 20, 2015

The Fox #1

   Certainly one of the most off-beat (yet somehow mainstream) super-hero comics around must be The Fox from Dark Circle Comics.

   Written by Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid, and drawn by Haspiel, it follows the adventures of a regular guy - Paul Patton, Jr. - who finds himself something of a magnet to weirdness.

   In his real-life job as a photographer, he joins his grown son in a visit to the town of Beaver Kill, which is due to be flooded to make room for a badly-needed water source.

   But there's a problem - the company doing the flooding is run by his arch-enemy, and the Fox grew up in the town - so nostalgia runs strong.

   A reluctant hero, Paul keeps promising he's going to give up the hero game - and then things get weird again.

   So it's no surprise when he encounters a beautiful villain working on her own poisonous scheme - a plot that threatens father and son.

   The series has a great sense of humor, and doesn't take itself seriously. It's loaded with energy and good spirits.

   It's not for everyone, but I certainly enjoy it.

Grade: B+


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Groo: Friends and Foes #4

   It's impossible for me to say anything bad about the new Groo: Friends and Foes series.

   That's because it's another example of Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier being the best in the comics business.

   This new series has been terrific, with stories that rank with Groo's best adventures (that's a compliment - honest)!

   And the artwork is amazing! Aragones creates a stunning breed of dragon here, and (as the cover indicates), he doesn't skimp on the scales (or the teeth).

  The stories with Arcadio are always fun - he's the handsome hero who is Groo's exact opposite - and here he's working a scam involving trained dragons. Of course, when his former "assistant" Groo turns up... well, let's just say that things go amiss.

   The other reason I can't speak ill of Groo is because the recent collection of the Groo vs. Conan series used a quote from this website on the back cover!

   I know, right?

   What an honor! I was already a huge fan of this series - but now I'm a supporter for life!

Grade: A