Tuesday, March 3, 2015

George Perez's Sirens #3 (of 6)

   I have to admit, I was surprised by this issue of George Perez's Sirens.

   The series seemed to be shaping up as a traditional (if crowded) super-hero team - this one made up of a small army of beautiful women, each one with a different ability.

   This issue starts as a battle royal - one the Sirens seem to have no hope of winning.

   Then suddenly - the series goes meta. We get to see Perez's wonderful, complex artwork sitting side-by-side with his artwork as it was in the mid-'80s.

   Then the story gets even stranger, and we're left to wonder the nature of reality.

   The series so far has felt... well, full, both in terms of the art, and in terms of the story, which is awash with characters and powers and villains and science fiction concepts.

   But the beauty of it is, you really get your money's worth. Perez packs more in each issue than any three issues from most companies.

   With beautiful, striking art, and a surprising turn for the story, this is a series that lives up to Perez's hard-earned reputation for top-notch work.

Grade: A-


Monday, March 2, 2015

S.H.I.E.L.D. #3

   You get the sense that writer Mark Waid is having a heck of a lot of fun with this new S.H.I.E.L.D. series.

   He's taken the cast members from the TV show and inserted them firmly into the Marvel universe, where they can interact with assorted heroes and villains (easy to do when you don't have to deal with a special effects budget or actors wages).

   This issue focuses on Phil Coulson, the agent heading up the revival of S.H.I.E.L.D., as he tackles a unique challenge.

   A small army using sorcery-based weapons has invaded Dr. Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum and unleashed a force that threatens the world - but Dr. Strange is not around.

   What can S.H.I.E.L.D. do? That's all part of the fun, of course, but the beauty is that they bring in Spider-Man, since he's worked with Dr. Strange before (including their first meeting in the now-classic Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2).

   The issue also conjures up happy memories of the Strange Tales comic, which feature Dr. Strange splitting the comic with Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

   Add in the always-terrific art by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer, and you have a comic that's a lot of fun. Highly recommended!

Grade: A


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Savage Sword of Criminal (One-Shot)

   I was a big fan of Marvel's Savage Sword of Conan magazine - it was basically an over-sized black-and-white comic book that was often more adult than the regular Conan comic book.

   So I couldn't resist picking up the Savage Sword of Criminal one-shot, as it combines barbaric sword-and-sorcery with the gritty story of an extraordinarily tough crook who's trying to survive his final days in prison.

   It's an odd mix - but it actually works, though the story it tells (both stories) is pretty gruesome.

   But that's what you'd expect from this series by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips - it's a realistic, warts-and-all approach to the world of crime, and it pulls no punches.

   This is definitely not a comic for kids - it's loaded with graphic violence, harsh language and a few naked ladies.

   But if you have fond memories of the original magazine, this clever homage will bring a smile - ever through the blood and guts.

Grade: A-



Saturday, February 28, 2015

Daredevil #13

   It's the humor.

   That's the secret behind the success of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee's run on Daredevil.

   Well, that and the fact that they're telling great stories with interesting characters and fantastic art.

   But it's the humor that was missing before they came on board.

   This issue had all the earmarks of a tragic tale, as Matt goes public with the fact that he's in love.

   That hasn't gone well in the past - it's a deadly occupation, being Daredevil's sweetie.

   But give Waid and Samnee credit - they find a fresh spin on the topic, and take the story in unexpected directions - all while keeping a smile on our face.

   As should be obvious by now, if you're not buying this series, you're making a terrible mistake. It's one of the best in the business.

Grade: A


Friday, February 27, 2015

Batman #39


   For three years writer Scott Snyder and artists Greg Capullo and Danny Miki have been presenting the "New 52" version of Batman.

   They've created a new foe in the Court of Owls, and tried to re-establish the Joker as a true figure of menace.

   One was a great success - the other, not so much.

   This version of the Joker just hasn't worked at all for me. He's too much the mad sociopath with impossible resources (manages to survive with his face torn off? No problem! Want to stage a parade in downtown Gotham while the city is burning? Easy! Does he need to be everywhere at once? Sure!).

   The story revolves around the Joker's attempts to burn Gotham City to the ground - and the implications are far-reaching, as (if I'm reading this correctly) the Joker has developed a super-power of sorts - with odd implications that put him in Wolverine's class.

   A little tweaking is one thing, but making the Joker into a super-powered monster is a step way too far in the wrong direction.

   And don't get me started on what happens to Alfred here.

   It all reads like fan fiction, not the kind of story that advances the mythology. Instead, it's a story that will have to be "fixed" later.

   On the up side, the art is terrific as always.

Grade: B-


Thursday, February 26, 2015

New Avengers #30

   Marvel Comics has a long of history of "cosmic" stories - some on a more personal basis, such as Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) becoming cosmically aware, and some dealing with world-destroying menaces like Galactus.

   But I don't think we've ever seen a cosmic threat quite as all-encompassing as the one that's counting down in the ongoing "Time Runs Out" story unfolding in the New Avengers and The Avengers.

   That's because the threat of destruction hangs over not just the Earth, not just our universe, but every alternate reality in existence.

   Something is doing away with or destroying all the alternate universes - and this issue may provide the answer to the mystery.

   One of the original Avengers goes on a mission to find the reason behind the destruction of universes - and what he discovers may show that there's no hope of stopping the destruction.

   This is an epic story that just keeps getting bigger and bolder, as the new mythology being built by writer Jonathan Hickman grows.

   It's an impressive tapestry, and it's all building to the new Secret Wars in two months.

   In the hands of a lesser writer, I'd worry about how this is all going to affect (read: damage) the Marvel Universe.

   But since this is Hickman's creation, I'm happy to hang on for the long haul!

Grade: A


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Classics - Daredevil #6

   It's certainly possible to love a comic too much.

   The picture at right is not my copy of Daredevil #6 - mine is tattered and marked up - I was afraid the heat of the scanner might cause it to crumble into powder.

   When you hold it, it's like getting a grip on a rag - it's rubbery. My pal James refers to the condition of such comics as "BTH" - "Beat to Hell."

   The reason for the condition is easy to see - it's a terrific comic!

   Written by Stan Lee and drawn by Wally Wood, it pits "The Man Without Fear" against a new villain - Mr. Fear, who discovers a gas that induces intense fear - even in Daredevil's heart!.

   Mr. Fear teams up with two other second-rate (but entertaining) heavies - The Ox and The Eel - and the three form The Fellowship of Fear.

   This may be the only appearance of that team, but it's a dandy, showing off the amazing talent of Wood, who loads the issue with creative, entertaining fights, and Lee's gift for dialogue, as he keeps things moving with fast and funny patter.

   The issue is a heck of a lot of fun - which is why I read it over and over.

   The copy I own is one I picked up 51 years ago - in 1964 I traded for it, scoring it off my childhood friend Bruce (whose name is scrawled on the cover - he did that to all his comics. Some people).

   It may have virtually no resale value, but as a reading copy of a classic adventure, it's priceless.

   To me.

Grade: A+


New Comic Book Day

  It's been a roller-coaster day! I had a message this morning from my comics shop that the new comics wouldn't be in until tomorrow. 

   Then I got another message late in the afternoon that they'd arrived.

   So I hauled it to the shop - and here's what I picked up:

- New Avengers #30 - It doesn't get much more cosmic than this.

- Batman #39 - The Joker's master plan.

- Daredevil #13 - Here comes love.

- Darth Vader #2 - Searching for the pilot who destroyed the Death Star.

- Fantastic Four #643 - Fighting back.

- Flash #39 - Two worlds, two Flashes (but not the ones you think).

- Invaders #15 - The final issue (for now).

- S.H.I.E.L.D. #3 - Fighting magical enemies - where's Dr. Strange when you need him?

- Sirens #3 - The ladies go meta.

- All-New X-Men #38 - Things escalate.

- The Savage Sword of Criminal (One-Shot) - Barbarian epic or crime story?

   And that's it!