Friday, November 27, 2015

Justice League of America #5

   I'm throwing the B.S. flag on this issue.

   The Justice League of America series was established as a showcase for the art and story by Bryan Hitch.

   But instead of the continuation of the story he's telling, this month we get a fill-in issue!

   When I saw it at the comics shop I thought I had picked up the wrong issue. This issue barely contains any JLA at all - it's all about the Martian Manhunter tracking down a killer alien.

   Rather than guiding us to picking up the new comic series featuring that character, this issue should convince anyone to stay far away.

   DC long ago ruined J'onn J'onzz as a character, changing him from the powerful, good-hearted founding member of the JLA and making him a grim, relentless engine of destruction who looks and acts strangely - they apparently don't want you to sympathize with him or, you know, actually like him.

   Here he fights a brutal alien who tears flesh and splashes blood around in a fashion that should warm the heart of any horror fan - but the violence will leave many superhero fans (like me) cold, and it's definitely not an issue for kids.

   The art is good (bloodletting aside), but the story is weak, even for a fill-in issue.

   My advice: if you don't have Bryan Hitch work to publish, then don't print the next issue until you do.

Grade: D+


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1

   To say that Frank Miller's 1986 Dark Knight Returns mini-series was ground-breaking would be an understatement.

   It focused on an alternate future, where Batman retired after a tragic event in his life - but is brought back into action as a 55-year-old force of nature. It was raw, visceral, and it affected the way that hero was presented after that - he would forever after be darker and more serious.

   (It also included the fight scene between Batman and Superman that has apparently inspired the upcoming film.)

   Miller followed it up in 2001 with the Dark Knight Strikes Again, a series plagued by publishing delays and general dislike among the readers (it seemed to be taking on the '60s Batman TV show more than the comic book character).

   Now, right on its every-15-years schedule, we have the third installment, though this one has considerably less Frank Miller content.

   Dark Knight III: The Master Race is written by Brian Azzarello and Miller, with art on the main feature by Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson. It's set in the "Dark Knight" universe, where Batman has been missing for a while - but he returns, fighting back against the less-than-sterling police department.

   It also includes a vignette with Wonder Woman and her family, and asks the question: what happened to Batman? There's also a delightful little mini-comic included in this issue, this one featuring Frank Miller artwork and an unexpected hero.

   I have to admit, I wasn't sure what to expect here. But the story and the art certainly deliver, and it evokes the original series without being a slavish imitation. I have no idea where the story is going, but that's a good thing - we seem to have lots of surprises on the way.

   The package is a bit pricey, and you'd have to be a mighty serious collector to try to gather up all those alternate covers - but what's inside is mighty promising so far.

Grade: A-


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Classics - Tales of Suspense #59

   Here's a cover with Captain America and Iron Man behaving much more like gentlemen than they do in that Civil War trailer.

   Of course, the '60s were a gentler time.

   Cap, of course, was created in the '40s, faded out after the war, returned briefly in the mid-'50s, and then disappeared until his return in the mid-'60s.

   As I've written before, at the end of the original Avengers #3, there was a blurb promising the return next issue of Captain America!

   I thought to myself, "Who the heck is Captain America?"

   It didn't take long after his initial appearance for Cap to get his own comic - sort of - as he shared space with Iron Man, starting with this issue (each had 10 pages of story to fill).

   What a blast this first issue is, showing the mastery of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and inker Chic Stone in crafting a small masterpiece!

   Consider that the story consists of: a splash page; two pages to set up the story (wherein Cap is on monitor duty at Avengers Mansion and a group of criminals decides to make an example out of him, so the Avengers will leave them alone - or something like that); and seven pages of all-out action as Cap demonstrates why, powers or not, he's no pushover.

   It's a stunning display of how to do an action sequence - it flows logically and forcefully (you can almost feel those punches), and it's choreographed perfectly. The dialogue is fast and funny and never gets in the way of the action.

   I already liked Cap from his appearances in the Avengers, but this story just cemented my feelings for the character. When he's done "right," he's the hero you want to be - resourceful, powerful, never at a loss, decisive, calm and courageous.

   What's not to like?

Grade: A


New Comic Book Day

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

- Archie #4 - revealed at last: how Archie and Betty broke up!

- Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 - Back in action!

- Elfquest #12 - The shocking secret of Cutter!

- Guardians of the Galaxy #2 - Revenge comes calling.

- Justice League of America #5 - Wait, is this a fill-in issue? REALLY?

- Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1 - Good to see Devil back in action.

- Saga #31 - Getting the band back together.

- Superman #46 - The Man of Steel as a pro wrestler? REALLY?

   And that's it!

Captain America: Civil War: the Trailer

   Just on the off chance you've missed it so far, here's the (awesome) trailer for Captain America: Civil War:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Joe Frankenstein (Collection)

   Two of the four issues included in this Joe Frankenstein collection have been reviewed on this site before - but not by me!

   My pal Glen Davis provided guest reviews of the first two issues - which you can read here and here (he liked them both a lot).

   I've read the recently-released collection of the first four issues, and you can count me as a fan, too.

   The series by artist / co-writer Graham Nolan and co-writer Chuck Dixon offers a fresh and fun version of the classic monster.

   Suffering guilt for his past sins, the Frankenstein Monster has spent the long years since his creation on two pastimes: making money and protecting the descendants of the original Dr. Frankenstein.

   Which leads him to his latest challenge: protecting Joe, the teen orphan who is the last surviving relative. His blood holds a powerful secret, and dark forces are leaving a path of destruction behind in an attempt to capture him.

   It translates into a rollicking adventure, with loads of monsters, vampires and assorted other creatures thrown into the mix (along with more than a few surprises).

   The art by Nolan is, of course, terrific - he seems to be having a blast drawing all kinds of monsters, beautiful women, and over-the-top action scenes.

   It's a heck of a lot of fun and perfectly sets up an ongoing series (which we hope to see in the future) starring the monster and his boy.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A


Monday, November 23, 2015

Clandestino #1

   I do love a good revenge story - and that's what Clandestino is all about!

   It's set in an alternate reality - one in which a renegade military leader - General Kapala - has managed a military coup against the United States, and has taken control.

   Of course, a rebel group rises up to fight back, and one of the key figures is a man known only as Clandestino.

   In this series, written and drawn by Amancay Nahuelpan, we get a few brutal action sequences, the setup for the series, and the events that motivate the title character to seek revenge on Kapala and his followers.

   It's a brutal, "B-movie" setup (and that's not an insult in any way), guaranteed to bring the reader back for more next issue.

   The art, like the story, is raw and visceral - Nahuelpan has a unique style that's perfectly suited for this story.

   If you're a fan of the dystopian, end-of-the-world (or sure looks like it) action flick, you should check out this series.

Grade: B+


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #1

   So what happens when an immortal dies?

   That's the topic of this new series, Wrath of the Eternal Warrior.

   The hero Gilad has fought to defend the Earth for thousands of years, but at the finale of the Book of the Dead mini-series, it seemed his fight was ended.

   But you can't keep a good hero down. This issue is divided between two disparate scenes: one a fight between Gilad and a seemingly-endless sea of demons; the other a peaceful homecoming for the hero, a well-deerved respite. Or is it?

   The story by Robert Venditti sets up the mystery / paradox of Gilad's existence.

   The art by Raul Allen and Patricia Martin is quite good, walking the line between bucolic events - and chaotic ones.

   This issue is a good jumping-on point for new readers, as it sets up (or seems to set up) a new standard for the Eternal Warrior. It's a strong start for a new / ongoing series!

Grade: A-


Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Black Knight #1

   Perhaps the most surprising survivor of the eventual end of the Secret Wars is revealed in this issue starring The Black Knight.

   No, it's not the knight - it's the world he finds himself in: Weirdworld.

   For mysterious reasons, Dane Whitman, the modern-day owner of the mystic Ebony Blade, finds himself in command there, fighting strange monsters and trying to hold together his fragile coalition of fighters.

   I've always liked the Black Knight (both in the original, King Arthur-era version and in the modern day hero), but he's another character that no one seems to know what to do with.

   Because he uses a sword, it's tough to put him to work fighting modern bad guys - he spends a lot of time hitting them with the flat of his sword.

   So it's a great idea to put him in a mystic, medieval setting where the fighting is more brutal (sword edges are allowed) - though for now the whole environment is just chaotic.

   I'm still warming up to artist Luca Pizzari and color artist Antonio Fabela. The work is solid, but the color is so muted and grim that it's sometimes difficult to follow events.

   So it's a decent start to this new series. I'm hoping for bigger and better things in the months ahead - The Black Knight has a great hero pedigree and deserves the best.

Grade: B+