Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New Comics Day

   Here's what I picked up today:

- Alien Legion #2 - Under attack!

- Batman #33 - The final question!

 Elfquest: The Final Quest #4 - Pushed to the limit!

- Flash #33 - Racing through time.

- Groo vs Conan #1 - About. Danged. Time!

- Invaders #8 - Searching for an old friend.

- Original Sin #5.2Thor's searching for his sister.

- Ragnarok #1 - Walt Simonson? I'm there.

- Saga #21 - Married sex.

- Star Trek City on the Edge of Forever #2 - Kirk and Spock, time travellers. 

- Superman #33Two Supermen!

- Tomb Raider #6 - Back on the island of death.

- Wonder Woman #33 - War of the gods!

   And that's it! 

The Classics - Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #63

   I have to admit that I occasionally buy the silliest comics for no good reason.

   For example, last weekend I stopped in a local comics shop. Looking through the back issues, I found this issue of Lois Lane, a comic I never followed or cared much about (no offense to those who love the series - I'm just being honest).

   But when I read the dialogue and the caption, I laughed - and I knew I had to buy it.

   On the cover, we see Superman walking out of the traditional Daily Planet stock room, saying, "I'll tell you why I'll never marry you, Lana or you, Lois! Who wants a wife so stupid she doesn't realize I'm Superman when I take off my Clark Kent glasses?"

   The caption says, "Could Superman's 'Clark Kent' disguise fool you... all of the time... or even some of the time? So how can he keep on fooling the world? Here is the story we have never dared publish before!"

   Superman has a reputation from the Silver Age (this issue was published in 1966) of being, frankly, a jerk toward Lois and Lana, using dirty tricks to preserve his secret identity. Hard to imagine him being much more of a heel than he is here, telling his love interests that they're stupid.

   Of course, the story DC had never dared publish before ends up being a scam (it's one of those endings where a character takes off a mask to reveal his true identity - and then takes off another one to show his truly true ID.

   The issue features wonderful art by Kurt Schaffenberger (who is actually allowed to sign his work). He's one of the unsung heroes and great talents who never got the kind of attention he deserved.

   The story's silly (more sitcom than adventure), with the most surprising shock being that the story was continued into the next issue.

   Someday, I'll have to track down that issue, too. I could always use another laugh.

Grade: C

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Soulfire Annual #1

   I've complained in the past about summer annuals. The once-anxiously-awaited event has become, in more recent years, something less than special.

   I'm happy to report, though, that the Soulfire Annual is a cut above the average.

   That's because, instead of going for a bloated, overblown storyline, we get a collection of short features that serve as a great overview of the series - especially handy for those who might have come in late.

   The first is a grim struggle in the future as magic returns to the world at large; the second is a cartoon version of a young Grace and her friends trying to help a young dragon overcome a phobia; the third is a more realistic version of young Grace as she learns some surprising things about the world outside her castle; and the final chapter is a genuine primer by Michael Turner, Jeph Loeb and J.T. Krul, which explains the history behind the rise and fall of magic.

   The art is terrific - it's a fun mix of talent and stories, and a great way to catch up on the story behind Soulfire.

Grade: B+

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Monday, July 21, 2014

She-Hulk #6

   The new She-Hulk series continues to fly a bit under the radar, but it's consistently good - funny and clever, with good characterizations and unique stories.

   The ongoing story by Charles Soule is a bit murky, but that's by design. She-Hulk has her team investigating a mysterious lawsuit that involves several heroes - but no one has any memory of it.

   Even worse, when the person who brought the lawsuit is mentioned, the people getting sued tend to go berserk - and then promptly forget all about it again.

   Throw in an attempted assassination, an attack by demons and an unexpected guest star and you have another entertaining (if somewhat confusing) issue.

   The art by Ron Wimberly is a bit uneven for some reason - the quiet, personal scenes are excellent, but the action sequences are just too chaotic - I'm not sure what's going on there.

   Still, this series is smart and fun - a rare combination in comics these days!

Grade: B+

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Avengers World #9

   The main Avengers titles have been mighty serious of late - so this issue of Avengers World arrives like a shot of fresh air.

   It features two Avenger team members who are best friends and former New Mutants - Sam "Cannonball" Guthrie and Bobby "Sunspot" DaCosta are cast in the unlikely role of spies, trying to uncover the secret behind the growing threat of AIM Island.

   They approach it as a lark (time travel is nothing new to them, after all), and eventually they land in that greatest of dramatic devices: a bar fight with dozens of strange aliens.

   It's all in good fun! Writer Nick Spencer keeps the dialogue fast and funny, and artist Stefano Casselli brings us amazing alien creatures and worlds of the future and keeps the storytelling clear and easy to follow.

   I'm always a sucker for humor when it's well done, and this issue fits the bill. Recommended!

Grade: A-

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Uncanny X-Men #23

   I think I should have reviewed the last issue of Uncanny X-Men. It was loaded with all kinds of action, spectacle and the grand conclusion to a long-running mystery.

   This issue promises a lot - namely, the reading of the Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier (who, amazingly, is still dead). 

   But that doesn't happen (though we do find out that the will exists).

   The issue is mostly a chance to check on on a few dangling sub-plots: the Dazzler's search for revenge, some apologies for past infractions, and the appearance of a (potentially) deadly new mutant.

   So, unless you're a diehard fan, you could probably skip this one. (Of course, now that new mutant will be the next Wolverine, and you'll all hate me for waving this one off. 

   But I'm willing to take that chance.

Grade: C+

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International #1

   What could be more natural than a special issue combining the lunacy of Harley Quinn with the chaotic gathering known as Comic-Con International?

   Don't answer too quickly.

   It's a great idea on the surface of it, but in execution it's a very mixed bag - at least for me.

   Part of that is because the issue is struggling with the balance between the real world and the more cartoonish, Warner Brothers cartoon-type action it really calls for.

   Another part of the problem is that the art is supplied by a crazy-quilt collection of artists whose styles don't always mesh - we're talking Paul Pope, Javier Garron, Damion Scott, Robert Campanella, Amanda Conner, John Timms, Marco Failla, Dave Johnson and Stehanie Roux. All talented artists, but to try to mold their efforts into a single coherent story is a bit much (though I admit I'd follow Amanda Conner anywhere).

   Oh, and if you're going to load in lots of in-jokes, how about providing a key at the end of the issue so we can all join in?

   So a good idea for a comic celebrating the premier comics convention and celebration of all things related thereupon - but this issue just didn't work for me. Better luck next year!

Grade: B-

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Original Sin #6 (of 8)

   So I admit it: I have, in my life, watched soap operas.

   Almost 30 years ago my wife and I recorded and watched the ABC-TV soap All My Children for about a year. (We were young and foolish.)

   There was a lot to love and a lot to hate about soaps, but the signature move that the show used over and over - and I hated - was the eternal dramatic pause.

   Beautiful girl walks up to hunky guy. She glares at him and says, "Well, is it true? Did you sleep with Betty Jean?"

   The hunky guy looks at her with a guilty look on his face... he looks and looks... but never says anything. Finally, the picture fades to black - and we're in a commercial break. Hated it - it was just so unnatural and corny, an obvious trick to get the viewer to stick around through the commercial break.

   I bring it up because it's a trick that Original Sin keeps using. A group of heroes have been brought together - and sent on various wild goose changes - for reasons the man behind it, the original Nick Fury, finally reveals.

   But when the question, "Who shot the Watcher?" arises,  we get a long dramatic pause, and no answer. It's still a cheap trick.

   As always, the art but Mike Deodato is phenomenal - amazing crowd shots and stunning vistas - but the story is still struggling. Fights break out for no reason, Fury's actual mission is still unknown, and it still seems certain that Marvel has built the series for the sole purpose of killing off the original Nick Fury.

   Since he's one of my all-time favorite characters, don't expect any cheers from this corner.

Grade: B-

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