Sunday, April 23, 2017

Astro City #43

   The beauty of Astro City is that there are heroes that we know nothing about.

   For example, there's been a hero who's appeared practically since the series began more than 25 years ago - and he's a complete mystery.

   But for some reason, I've always been fascinated by The Gentleman (or, as I call him, Fred MacMurray - because the comic book character is definitely modeled after that usually likable actor).

   Always dressed in a tuxedo, he has amazing powers - he can fly, has super-strength and is apparently invulnerable.

   Finally, the mystery is explained in this issue, as we get the origin of the hero - and it's an odd one.

   It all centers around a plain spoken girl who has seen terrible hardships - but somehow she continues to believe that (as someone once said) the sun'll come out tomorrow.

   The issue also includes the Bouncing Beatnik, another wonderful music-based hero, and has a few other guest appearances, too.

   Great art and a fun, far-fetched story make this yet another terrific addition of the pantheon.

   As I've said before: surely every comic book fan should be reading this comic.

Grade: A-



Saturday, April 22, 2017

Nick Fury #1

   There have been many attempts since the '60s to revive Nick Fury in his own comic, but they typically don't last - perhaps because they all stand in the shadow of Jim Steranko's towering, groundbreaking work on the original version of the super-spy.

   But you have to hand it to writer James Robinson and artists Act and Hugo Petrus - they're swinging for the fence here.

   And succeeding!

   They're created a breezy, fresh, op-art look for this series that is cinematic and spectacular.

   The story has Fury infiltrating a Hydra stronghold and trying to escape intact.

   It's not a deep story, but it's fast and fun and well worth the price of admission.

   It's downright... Steranko-esque!

Grade: A


Friday, April 21, 2017

Secret Empire #0

   I've been critical of the Hydra storyline that's been running through the pages of the Steve Rogers Captain America series for a year-and-a-half, but that story finally is delivering as we arrive at the Secret Empire event.

   Let's take a stab at sorting this out: the Red Skull used the Cosmic Cube to change Cap's origin, making him instead a member of Hydra since he was a child. For decades he's worked in secret, pretending to be a hero while laying plans for Hydra's ultimate takeover of the world.

   That plan includes attacks on several fronts, including a space invasion by the Chitauri, a Hydra takeover of a foreign nation, and a huge attack by an army of villains in New York City.

   It's good to see that Nick Spencer's story is a big one - it's certainly had a long enough (and often agonizing) buildup - and the art Daniel Acuna (with a prologue by Rod Reis) is excellent.

   But it's hard to see how this is all going to pay off. The only options seem to be redemption for Cap (which would still leave his origin and history changed and stained) or a miracle reboot ("Thanks, Cosmic Cube!").

   Hopefully there's a better choice that I haven't spotted.

   Whatever happens, this is a powerful story with shocks and surprises aplenty. So far, I'm sticking around.

   (So there are three "secret science organizations" in the Marvel Universe - Hydra, AIM and the Secret Empire - so why is this mini-series about Hydra named after... oh, never mind.)

Grade: A-


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Batman #21

   When my comics shop owner handed me this issue of Batman, I knew it was going to be something special - it has a lenticular cover!

   (I'll pause while you go "Whoa!")

   I know!

   Thankfully, the interior lives up to the promise, as we (finally!) see the beginning of the investigation into Rebirth and the mysterious blood-splashed Smiley Face button.

   Batman teams up (sorta kinda) with the only other hero aware of the button - the Flash (he's the other image on the cover).

   It's a fast-paced, action-packed story by Tom King, as Batman must fight for his life against a powerful, surprising opponent.

   It's a story loaded with some genuine shocks and surprises (which we won't give away here, natch) - but it does tie into certain other event books.

   The artwork by Jason Fabok is very good, with great character designs, strong layouts and powerful action sequences.

   It's great to see them finally getting around to taking the next step in the Rebirth story - it's been simmering far too long, but it seems to be coming to a boil at last!

Grade: A-


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

New Comics Day

   Wow, a big haul of comics today! Here's what I picked up:

- Archie #19 - Mending fences with Veronica.

- Astro City #43 - At last, it's... the Gentleman!

- Batman #21 - Finally, the investigation into Rebirth begins!

- Steve Rogers Captain America #16 - The beginning of the end!

-  Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #7 - Look, up in the sky...

- Daredevil #19 - It's the Purple Man!

- Doctor Strange #19 - Fighting his oldest friend!

- Totally Awesome Hulk #18 - Fighting for his life!

- Invincible Iron Man #6 - Face the future!

- Justice League #19 - The end of the Timeless!

- Nick Fury #1 - Channeling Steranko!

- The Punisher #11 - Death on the high seas!

- Secret Empire #0 - The secret revealed!

- The Wildstorm #3 - A meeting of minds.

   And I received review copies of:

Anno Dracula #2 (of 5) - The adaptation of the vampire novel continues.

Assassins Creed Uprising #3 - The video game worlds unite!

- Black #5 - Falling deep into the system.

Doctor Who 10th Year Three #4 - The finale!

Forever War #3 (OF 6)  

- Generation Zero #9 - Zeroes to heroes!

- Ninjak #26 - Battle royale!

Peter David Artful #5 - The Dodger gets in more trouble!

- Soulfire #2 - Fantasy action adventure and more!

World War X #5 (of 6) - Another alien enemy?

Zombie Tramp Ongoing #34 - The final challenge!

   Whew! And that's it!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Spencer & Locke #1

   Like every right-thinking comic strip fan, I'm a huge fan of Calvin & Hobbes, which is (in my opinion) the greatest comic strip ever.

   It has inspired a number of comics, all trying to capture its creativity and manic sense of wonder.

   The latest in the list of homages is Spencer & Locke, which offers a different take on the concept of a boy whose stuffed animal comes to life when no one else is around (or alternately, it's about a boy who is friends with an intelligent talking tiger who seems to be just a stuffed animal to the rest of the world).

   But this is a dark vision of the concept. Young Locke (seen in Watterson-esque flashbacks) grows up to be a detective, and his partner is a "real" panther, Spencer.

   This is not a happy, optimistic series - it's about murder and dark plots and an unhappy childhood.

   I'm on the fence with this one. On one hand, it's well crafted and manages to represent (and replicate) elements of the strip it's based on with great skill.

   On the other hand, it's a perversion of the work Bill Watterson crafted over decades of work - and I'm not sure how comfortable I am following a series that is based note for note on another creator's work.

   It's well-crafted, but I'm not sure it's well-intentioned - or in good taste.

   Your mileage may vary!

Grade: B-


Monday, April 17, 2017

Immortal Brothers: Tale of the Green Knight #1

   I believe it was sometime in Junior High (these days they call it Middle School) that I read the original story of the Green Knight.

   I loved it! It had knights, magic, action, horror, surprises - it was entertaining all the way around!

   Here Valiant has mashed up its "Immortal" characters and thrown them into the mix, all as part of a story being told by Archer to an under-the-weather Faith (with a nice hat tip to the movie A Princess Bride).

   The story finds the mysterious Green Knight arriving at Camelot to challenge King Arthur and his knights to a deadly game. One of their knights can use an axe to strike the Green Knight - but that knight must agree to take a return blow within the next year.

   The only knight to accept the challenge is Gawain (known to us as the Eternal Warrior, Gilad). The Green Night survives and departs, and Gilad begins to gather his brothers to help him overcome the challenge of his emerald adversary.

   It's a fun story with terrific art and lots of entertaining dialogue, and a few surprises - plus an unexpected twist on the classic Arthur legend (one I'm not so sure I like, but I'll give it credit for being original).

   All in all, a lot of fun whether you've read the original or not. It's a great "standalone" story that should serve as a great template for future adventures.

Grade: A