Saturday, May 30, 2015

Uncanny Avengers Ultron Forever #1

   Ultron Forever has been a strange series.

   Not so much for the contents, which have been a (more or less) straightforward time travel adventure, with different Avengers pulled from different time periods to fight the world-conqurering Ultron.

    The strange part about it is that the story has been told over three oversized issues, each one with the same creative team and the same time-lost group of heroes.

   But each of the three issues has been an issue #1, with one subtitled The Avengers, one the New Avengers, and the last issue the Uncanny Avengers.

   Maybe it's just me, but that makes no sense at all.

   Still, it's smart to create some kind of tie-in to the movie villain, and the story itself has been pretty good.

   The art by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer, is, of course, brilliant. Terrific character designs, powerful layouts - the usual. And for sheer population on the page, there's a double-page spread in this issue worthy of George Perez - or Jack Kirby.

   The story by Al Ewing is solid, explaining why certain Avengers were chosen for the fight, and twisting the battle into a completely different shape by the final issue.

   It's a lot of fun with loads of action - what's not to like?

Grade: A-


Friday, May 29, 2015

Convergence: Justice Society of America #2 (of 2)

   Hey, Convergence ended this week. Apparently it left behind massive changes to the DC Universe - something about all the alternate realities still existing?

   So how does that fit in with the Multiversity of 52 alternate Earths? No idea.

   But I did pick up a few of the sidebar issues that were published, hoping for at least one last look at some beloved characters.

   One of my all-time favorites is the original super-team, the Justice Society of America - but man, they're a tough group to love.

   That's because DC has, with rare exceptions, treated the team like crap.

   They've aged them, de-aged them, trapped them in a hellish dimension, returned them to the Earth, killed a few members off - you get the idea.

   They enjoyed a strong run under James Robinson and Geoff Johns - but since then, they've been rebooted in the new Earth-2 title - and they aren't even called the JSA.

   So I had high hopes for this mini-series - but once again, the team is put through the mill. They start the story as old men, they're rejuvenated for one last adventure, defending the city - and they spend the whole fight talking about how great it is to not have sore joints.

   And there's not much hope extended that we'll see their like again - it's depressing.

   C'mon, DC - this is the first-ever team of heroes, the company's only "family" of heroes. Give 'em a break!

Grade: B-


Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Sandman Overture #5 (of 6)

   It's always a delight to see another issue of Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III's Sandman Overture - but I have to admit, I'm having trouble hanging on to the story.

   Maybe I'm just getting old, but the first issue arrived in October 2013. Issue two in March 2014. Issue three in August. Issue four in December.

   So we're averaging about five months between issues (which means we should see that final issue late this year).

   That's a bit much for a continued story - I'm definitely going to want to read all the issues together when it finally wraps up.

   Despite that obstacle, this series is an amazing work of art. From the glimpses into the hidden side of Dream's "family" to some unexpected twists and turns, as the universe faces destruction.

   And the art by Williams almost defies description - it's an Op Art explosion of ideas, images and emotions - simply amazing!

   Of course, that's one reason why the series is dragging its feet - art cannot be rushed, and certainly work of this quality is well worth waiting for.

   I can be patient for one more issue. For any reader who values quality, go forth and do likewise.

Grade: A



Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Comics Day

    Here's what I picked up at the comics shop today: 
- Convergence: JSA #2 - Final fight for the original heroes?
- Convergence: Shazam #2 - Taking on the Dark Knight.
- Elfquest #9 - Fighting in the deep dark places underground.
- Hawkeye #3 - A rescue mission.
- Ragnarok #5 (of 6) - A visit to Mirmir's Well.
- SHIELD # 6 - Can science match magic?
- Sandman Overture #5 (of 6) - Trippy!
- Uncanny Avengers: Ultron Forever #1 - The final showdown.
   And that's it!

Classic Comics - Mage: The Hero Defined #1

   A few years back I reviewed the first issue of Mage, which writer / artist Matt Wagner created at Comico in 1984.

   The series ended up being a limited series - it ran 15 issues and then ended in 1986, promising to return soon.

   "Soon" ended up being a bit of a wait, but the series finally returned in 1997 under the Image umbrella, with the title "The Hero Defined."

   The focus again was on Kevin Matchstick, who travels the country (wielding a glowing baseball bat) with his supernatural friend, Joe Phat, tracking down monsters and other evil creatures.

   As good as the original series was, the improvement in this series was remarkable. Wagner's art was more dynamic, the characters clearly outlined, the dialogue was sharp and funny, and the story loaded with surprises and shocks.

   As the series continued, the cast grew with characters drawn from a variety of mythological sources.

   Mage managed a great balance between action, drama and tragedy. A terrific series by one of the industry's top creators - and well worth tracking down.

   But we are way overdue for that third and final series.

Grade: A


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Donald Duck #1

   It's great to see the Duck family (Uncle Scrooge and, of course, Donald Duck) back in print.

   I also like that the series is "double numbering" - the cover displays both #1 and #368 (if only more comics did this) - so the publisher, IDW, gets the "first issue" bragging rights, and longtime fans get the continuation of the original series.

   There are three stories included here, including: one that puts Donald in the role of a journalist who isn't really a journalist; one that has Donald ineptly trying to shoot a funny video (but who's the real patsy?); and Donald trying to tackle some DIY projects.

   The stories are fun, and the only mark against them is that the issue doesn't include any stories by Carl Barks or Don Rosa.

   But that's a minor quibble - the stories are high energy, with terrific art. Lots of fun for readers of all ages!

Grade: B+


Monday, May 25, 2015

Sculptor (Graphic Novel)

   When Scott McCloud speaks - or releases a new graphic novel - attention must be paid.

   And Sculptor is well worth your time and attention.

   It's the unique story of David Smith, an artist who is going through a rough patch. He came close to great success, but fell short, and he wonders if his career is over.

   That's when David receives an unusual offer from Death itself - incredible sculpting powers, but in 200 days, his life ends.

   What follows is an incredible roller-coaster of life and career, as David finds his muse renewed - but will it result in fame and fortune?

   His personal life also takes some unexpected twists and turns. It's a riveting story that unfolds over more than 500 pages of stunning, compelling art.

   McCloud has written several excellent books about the comics art form, and here he demonstrates his mastery of it, manipulating time, focus, emotion and environment to maximum effect.

   His art isn't realistic, but it builds its own reality, and captures life in New York in amazing detail, from grungy apartments to alleys and rooftops and modern museums.

   This is a story that offers so much to the reader - surprises, heartbreak, ingenuity, passion.

   It's a mature tale, so I can't recommend it for young readers, but for everyone else, this graphic novel gets my highest recommendation.

Grade: A+



Sunday, May 24, 2015

Powers #3

   The beauty of the Powers series is that you can count on it for a story filled with shock and awe.

   The language and subject matter are as raw and real as can be (at least for a series about cops who deal with the murders and mayhem caused by super-powered citizens).

   And the story constantly keeps you off guard.

   For example... in this issue we have Detective Deena Pilgrim and her partner trying to solve a mass murder mystery that involves a "Power."

   Her former partner (and former Power) Christian Walker appears to be hiding out - but he was ambushed and badly beaten last issue.

   So if he's incapacitated, who are the figures showing up wearing his old costume?

   It's another fast, compelling story - the specialty of writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Avon Oeming, who turn in outstanding work here (like always).

   This isn't a series for everyone - young readers and the easily offended should stay away. But if you're looking for hard-hitting action, this is about as rough as it gets.

Grade; A-