Thursday, January 29, 2015

Multiversity Guidebook #1

   I was a fan of the Marvel Handbook and DC's Who's Who series - both of which served as reference books, listing the heroes, villains, supporting characters and important objects in each universe.

   Any series like that is a vast undertaking (which is one reason why they're pretty rare) - and now writer Grant Morrison enters the ring with this indispensable tome - the Multiversity Guidebook.

   It combines adventures on several different worlds with a guide to (almost) all 52 alternates Earths that now make up the DC Universe.

   (I say "almost" because they have to save some mystery for future stories, so a handful of Earths are left as mysteries.)

   It's like an Elseworlds tour of the DC universe, with an odd Batman story alongside a Kamandi adventure, with some key moments relived and many more mysteries and villainous plots hinted at.

   This issue should generate some debate among fans - for example, I don't see an Earth that represents the DC universe before the "New 52." Perhaps it doesn't exist.

   The issue is a bit pricey at $7.99, but it's worth it. Loaded with all kinds of facts, trivia and even a map of the entire universe (though you may need a magnifying glass to read it).

   Just an amazing piece of work and a good indication of the rich potential in DC's alternate worlds. Very impressive and highly recommended!

Grade: A

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

New Comics Day!

   Here's what I picked up at the ol' comics shop today:

- Batman #38 - The Joker on the attack!

- Elfquest Final Quest #7 - Change is coming.

- Flash #38 - Return of the Mirror Master.

- Invaders #14 - Fighting the Nazis again.

- Justice Inc #6 - The finale!

Multiversity Guidebook #1 - You can't tell one Earth from another without a program!

- New Avengers #29 - Shocking revelations!

- The Phantom #1Always glad to see the Ghost Who Walks in action!

- Thor #4 - When Thors collide!

- Winterworld #7 Fight to the finish!

- Uncanny X-Men #30 - Death runs rampant.

   And that's it! 

The Classics - Batman Annual #3

   It's hard to convey just how amazing these annuals were for young readers just getting into comics.

   Published in 1962, this huge Batman Annual offered 80 pages of classic reprints - seven stories in all (and it cost 25 cents! Annuals today have fewer pages and usually cost $5. It's enough to make a fan weep).

   Each DC annual typically had a theme - this issue's was "Batman and Robin's Most Fantastic Foes," and it lives up to the billing.

   The lineup includes the Joker (natch), Two-Face (in perhaps his only Silver Age appearance), the Mad Hatter, Mirror Man, Human Firefly and Gorilla Boss (it was DC in the '60s - ya gotta have a gorilla)!

   The seventh story featured the Mental Giant of Gotham City, who wasn't even a villain - no idea how he got in there.

   Each story is a finely-crafted, professional story, as Batman and Robin use their detective skills - and their athletic abilities - to track down, outwit or out-muscle each opponent.

   The stories include a fun bit of trivia (usually an indication of Bill Finger's writing, though no credits are listed here). For example, how does sculpting affect your thumb? How can colored crystals help combat Firefly's light barrage? These little bits of science and powers of observation added to the fun of the adventure.

   These days, reprints are all over - you can track down mountains of early Batman adventures easily. But in the '60s,  the companies just gave us these samplers of past adventures in annuals. No wonder we treasured them!

Grade: A-

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Wonder Woman #38

   The biggest surprise with the new creative team on Wonder Woman is that... they really haven't change anything.

   For decades, the standard has been: bring a new creative team on this title and they'll change almost everything about it - including the approach, the supporting cast, the villains.

   But as the Finches (Meredith and David) continue their run, they've maintained the focus on Diana's mythological side. By the end of the last team's run, she had taken the mantle of God of War - and now the story is looking at just how that affects her and her efforts to work with both the Amazons and the Justice League.

   They've added another surprise, bringing back a beloved character we haven't seen since the New 52 launched. It promises to be a controversial move (though you'll get no more about it from me, lest spoilers spill out).

   The art is exceptional - David Finch's style shows some influences from Neal Adams and Brian Bolland - his work is very detailed, with strong character designs and dynamic action sequences.

   As the cover shows, this is still an adult take on Wonder Woman - this isn't a comic for young readers.

   The story is still the question mark - will it live up to the art and to the previous run? For that answer, we may have to wait a few more issues to see how things play out - but so far, so good.

Grade: A-

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Fantastic Four #642

   Hoo boy.

   It just pains me to review this series, because the Fantastic Four has, traditionally, been my favorite Marvel Comic.

   But as my reviews of the latest incarnation of the title make plain, this storyline, wherein the team's lives have been torn down and stomped on a few times, just isn't working for me.

   It's fine for a team to face adversity, but here we have the team being destroyed but a long-running (and somewhat absurd) scheme by a new and previously-unknown villain (finally unveiled in this issue. Maybe).

   They're finally - finally! - starting to fight back, to realize the original cause for their troubles.  But the issue, unfortunately, is just a crowded mess.

  The story jumps all over - from Reed imprisoned and facing his enemy, to Johnny and Sue and Ben working together, to the kids in the FF facing a dreadful fate; and the return of a long-hidden character.

   It's just way too much and frankly, it's depressing.

   The art by Leonard Kirk and Karl Kesel in excellent, though.

Grade: B-

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Groo: Friends and Foes #1 (of 12)

   Ah, all is right in the world of comic books, as the eternally-stupid barbarian named Groo is back in print.

   Fresh off his encounter with Conan (which both characters somehow survived), Groo is teaming up with some of his classic Friends and Foes in this 12-issue maxi-series.

   We start with foes (not that Groo can tell the difference), as our dense hero tries to get a ride from Captain Ahax, who hates Groo.

   To be fair, he has good reason. Every time Groo gets on board one of Ahax's ships (Boats? Whatever), the vessel promptly sinks.

   So Ahax comes up with a clever way to insure he makes money despite Groo. Of course, when Groo's around, things never quite work out like they should.

   What more do you need to know? It's writer / artist Sergio Aragones crafting his usual ingenious, top-flight comedy, with Mark Evanier wordsmithing the daylights out of it (whatever that means).

   Lots of fun, and wonderful to see our old friend back in action. It's hard to tell who we should feel worse for - Groo's friends or his enemies.

   It's the readers, of course, who are the real winners.

Grade: A-

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Powers #1

   I should start this by saying that this comic is definitely not for kids (it includes brutal deaths, cursing, nudity and adult situations).

   This isn't a new series, despite the shiny "#1" on the cover - Powers has been around for about 15 years, following the adventures of regular police officers who investigate murders that involve people with super-abilities (they call them "Powers").

   This issue is a good "jumping-on" point for new readers, as it starts the process of re-establishing Deena Pilgrim, a tough-as-nails police detective, as she investigates a gruesome Powers-based mass murder.

   But where is her partner, Christian Walker? (By the way, he has one of the strangest backstories in the history of comics - you'll have to pick up the Powers collections for that.)

   The series is back just in time to tie in with the new TV show based on it, which will appear on the Sony Playstation Network.

   This isn't a series for everyone, but it's expertly crafted by writer Brian Michael Bendis with amazing, powerful art by Michael Avon Oeming.

   If you can handle the adult nature of the series, and you enjoy police dramas and super-hero stories, then this is a series you should definitely be following.

Grade: A-

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Justice League #38

   I have to admit, the ongoing story - the Amazon Virus - is leaving me cold.

   This is the third chapter in the latest issue of Justice League, and we're finally getting some information about the contagion that threatens all life on Earth - and the real reason Lex Luthor created it.

   That information may be too late, since most of the League has been infected - including the most "human" of them all - Batman.

   Of course, that's the big problem with a series like this - we all know that none of the characters can die, since they're all alive and well in their own titles. And the function of the virus, which gives powers to regular humans, all feels a bit too Silver Age-y.

   There's another development at the end that I won't give away - but it's a horror standard that's been far too overexposed (so to speak) in recent months.

    So, nice art, some good character moments - but I'm ready to move on to the next menace.

   This one just feels too familiar, too derivative - and too toothless - to really hit home.

Grade: B-

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