Thursday, July 30, 2015

Superman #42

   One of the modern trends in comics is that the heroes who have secret identities are terrible at keeping that secret.

   It's downright disappointing to see Superman so afflicted. Throughout the Silver Age, Clark Kent was the master at covering up that identity, despite Lois Lane's best efforts.

   As the cover gives away, in this issue Lois discovers his secret - one that Clark made no actual effort to conceal, as he single-handedly smashes an army of robots - while still Clark.

   But that's just the beginning. Jimmy Olsen also knows his secret (though at least Clark told him), and so does everyone involved in the high tech organization known as HORDR.

   It may be a fixable problem (though it's difficult to see how), but if not, it's a terrible mistake. As we all learned from the short-lived story where Spider-Man revealed his identity, some characters work much better with a secret ID. Losing it cuts the hero off from his supporting characters and his "real world" life.

   It's s terrible thing to do, especially here, since Clark's personal life has only recently been returned to its optimal setting - with him reporting for the Daily Planet, working alongside Lois, Jimmy and Perry White.

   And as long as I'm complaining, I don't understand why Superman keeps using his new "explosive man" power, since it leaves him powerless and naked.

   Anyway, this series trundles on with great art from John Romita, Jr., and Klaus Janson - but the story by new writer Gene Yang is still on shaky ground.

Grade: B

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Classics - Secret Origins #1

   Every good hero has an origin story, and from time to time the comics companies revive the concept of a book devoted to telling (or reprinting) those classic stories.

   In 1986, with the company recovering (readjusting?) from the events in Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC brought back its classic title, Secret Origins.

   But this series had a twist - instead of reprinting the old stories (as previous editions had done), this time around they'd tell those origin stories, redrawn and somewhat rewritten.

    And the first issue had a real treat. Not only did it include the first adventures of the original, Golden Age Superman - it was drawn by the great Wayne Boring, a classic Golden and Silver Age artist on the adventures of the Man of Steel!

   Even at the peak of his powers, Boring's work could be a little stiff, but those weaknesses are mostly eliminated by teaming him up with inker Jerry Ordway! And I admit that Boring is a sentimental favorite for me - some of the earliest Superman stories I saw when I first started reading comics were drawn by him.

   The story, written by Roy Thomas, is a direct adaptation of Superman's first appearance in 1938 in Action Comics #1 - right down to a re-staging of the classic cover of that issue.

   The creative team manages to walk the line between being faithful to the original story and crafting a modern comic story.

   What's most amazing about this issue is: in DC's post-Crisis continuity, the Golden Age Superman no longer existed! Crisis merged the alternate Earths into a single planet, so the modern, redesigned by John Byrne version of Superman was "in" - and the classic version was "out."

   So it was great fun to have one last nod to that historic character! We didn't know that he'd eventually turn up in continuity again - but that's another story.

Grade: A-

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New Comic Book Day

 Here's what I picked up at the comics shop today: 
 
- Batgirl #42 - Batgirl vs. Batman?
 
- Daredevil #17 - Cross and double-cross.
 
- Powers #4 - Walker's secret revealed?
 
- SHIELD #8 - Coulton's Angels?
 
- Sabrina #4 - Because my friends told me I should be reading it.
 
- Star Wars #7 - Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi!
 
- Superman #42 - A secret exposed!
 
- Thors #2 - A murder investigation - and a familiar face!
 
   And that's it! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ivar Timewalker #7

   The temptation in reading an issue of Valiant's Ivar Timewalker is to dismiss it as a new take on Doctor Who.

   Both feature intelligent protagonists who travel through time and outsmart or outwit their opponents. And they both (usually) wear dapper suits.

   But there are differences - and certainly Doctor Who doesn't have a corner on time travel stories.

   For instance, Ivar doesn't have a time machine - and he has to deal with his brothers - two immortals who are great fighters but terribly annoying.

   And in this story arc, Ivar is trying to prevent a human scientist from discovering the secret of time travel - because if she succeeds, it'll result in the end of - well, everything!

   It's a sharp, smart script from the always-reliable Fred Van Lente and strong art by Francis Portela.

    It's a nice balance of action, humor and an intelligent story. Fun stuff!

Grade: A-

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Monday, July 27, 2015

The Flash #42

   I continue to be mystified at this series.

   The Flash has been a strong success on television - the series will start its second season in the fall.

   So why does the comic book continue to struggle?

   The creative team seems to be trying to bring it into line with the TV show - Barry is now starting to show romantic interest in reporter Iris West (Unlike the show, here she's not his adopted sister).

   And his father is in jail, convicted of killing Barry' mother - but last issue, his father teamed up with several criminals to break out of prison.

   The Flash joins the search for the escapees, but the big concern is the return (and the mystery around) the Reverse-Flash.

   That description makes this issue sound better than it is. Once again, The Flash comes across as incapable and largely incompetent. (How can a big lumbering foe strike a super-speedster? It's silly.)

   The comic needs to embrace more of the elements of the TV show - namely, provide some supporting characters, an actual personal life for the hero (maybe he could go on an actual date with Iris), and let him use his powers in creative ways.

   The series is enjoying some new attention thanks to the TV show - if only it was worthy of it.

Grade: C+

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Weirdworld #2

   "You're going to like this one," said the owner at my local comics shop. "It features the return of a character who hasn't been seen in a long time."

   So, of course, I started guessing. It had to be a magic / barbarian type character, right? Starr the Barbarian? Dr. Druid? Bilbo Baggins?

   Well, I wasn't even close - and I won't give it away, but the character would fit in a really obscure trivia contest (which is to say, I barely remembered the character / concept, even though I still own the original issues - I think).

    This series continues to be entertaining, in a brutal, revenge-flick kinda way, as Arkon continues his quest to find his home world, which is somehow lost in the corner of Battleworld known as Weirdworld.

   It's violent, it's rude, it's disgusting - but mighty entertaining.

Grade: A-

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Winterworld: Frozen Fleet #3 (of 3)

   You know those action movies where all hell breaks loose and the heroes have to fight for their lives just to survive?

   That's a good description for every issue of Winterworld.

   Bucking the whole global warming concept, it takes us to an Earth where virtually everything is frozen - even the ocean is covered in ice.

   It follows the adventures of Scully, a tough-as-nails survivor who looks after 14-year-old Wynn, who's searching for her parents. They travel in an all-terrain truck, and trouble follows close behind.

   They seem to have found sanctuary when they discover a luxury liner trapped in the ice along with some other ships - but their luxury is short-lived, as the ship is attacked by a small army of savages.

   It's an action-packed, hard-hitting adventure from page one, with lots of surprises and twists thrown in for good measure.

   Writer Chuck Dixon is one of the best in the business, and this is his kind of gig - no punches pulled! These adventures have been packed in convenient three-issue mini-series, so it's easy to jump on anywhere along the line.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Uncanny X-Men #35

   As the Uncanny X-Men series winds down toward issue #600 (which somehow follows #35 - let's call it Marvel Math), I can't decide if it's winding up to a big finish or just running out of steam.

   The series got a fresh start when writer Brian Michael Bendis took over, changing the lineup and the basic concept, as we followed the attempts by Cyclops to find a new approach for young mutants - more of a rebellion than Professor Xavier's peaceful attempts.

   So he recruited an all-new team and started their training - but now Cyclops is out of the picture, so his recruits are trying to find their own direction.

   Naturally, they start their own super-team and take on the bad guys (both mutant and non). They gain immediate acceptance, but then a surprising problem arises.

    It all just feels phony and drummed up, not a natural progression of the experience for these characters. And at the end, they're right back where they started - sadder but perhaps wiser, but not different.

   Perhaps next issue (and the big number jump) will clear it up - or perhaps we'll see more of the biggest enemy this title has faced for some time now: the status quo.

Grade: B-

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