Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Classics - Stormwatch #1 (Vol. 2)

   In the heady first years of Image Comics, Stormwatch was an early entry in the "let's do something like the X-Men" contest.

   But it was thin stuff, all about the art and the posing and explosions and not worrying so much about the stories.

   That was 1993 - and in the years that followed, the creative teams shifted around regularly and events shook up the roster.

   Finally the series was turned over to Warren Ellis, who wasted no time in introducing science fiction, adventure, horror and political  elements, giving the team purpose and setting up some major storylines.

   In other words, the writing became the driving factor.

   After the Wildstorm Rising event shook up the Wildstorm Universe, Stormwatch was rebooted with a new issue #1 (volume 2).

   Teamed up with artists Oscar Jimenez and Jason Gorder, the art moved away from the early Image excesses (gritted teeth, impossible figures on the women, splash pages that featured the team posing) and focused on good storytelling, strong layouts and great character designs.

   The team balanced super-heroics with political posturing, rebuilding the team's good name, and facing down some deadly and merciless opponents.

   The series was really starting to take off - but the best was yet to come!

Grade: A-

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Ninjak #23

   As this issue sets up the "Seven Blades of Master Darque" story, it only neglects one thing: there's not much actual Ninjak content here.

   (Everyone's doing it, it seems.)

   Instead the focus is on his deadliest opponent - the tragic Roku, a red-tressed assassin who Ninjak has tried repeatedly to save (and each time, he's failed).

   We follow her as she breaks into an impregnable prison as part of her plan to recruit the members of the murderous Shadow Seven, all high-powered assassins in their own right - and all of them defeated by Ninjak.

   It's a grim tale with lots of death and destruction - and what is her mission all about, anyway?

   The script is crisp and the art is excellent - and Ninjak does play a vital role before we hit the end of the issue - but it'd still be nice to have him a bit more involved.

   (Last page shock panels aren't quite enough.)

Grade: B+

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Daredevil #15

   So which is better - the lighthearted Daredevil (last seen in the Mark Waid / Chris Samnee series) or the darker version now inhabiting the series under the guidance of Charles Soule and Goran Sudzuka?

   It's a tough call, because both versions have a lot to recommend them.

   The dark version has been compelling, with sharp, clever storytelling and unexpected twists - but it certainly is grim.

   Following the last storyline, which ended with a terrible injury to Daredevil's "apprentice" Blindspot, we find Matt Murdock having a strange reaction to the event - and now there's a bounty on Daredevil's head, which gets a lot of attention from the underworld.

   The art is powerful and the story is... well, unexpected. And oh, that final panel.

   So which is better? Well, I admit that I probably prefer the lighter version - but if we can't have that, this is powerful stuff, too.

Grade: A-

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Jessica Jones #4

   One of the things that stands out about Jessica Jones is that it is (now) set firmly in the Marvel Universe - but it doesn't really feel like it.

   It's almost like an Earth-2 version of Marvel. (Arguably, the original Alias series was set in a slightly different, "R" rated version of the MU.)

   That's because it's much more gritty, more street-level, than any other series. A lot of the credit goes to the art by Michael Gaydos, whose unique style evokes the real world without being photo-realistic. Stunning work!

   The story by Brian Michael Bendis has Jessica involved in a mystery. As this storyline started, she was being released from prison (we don't know why). Her child with Luke Cage is in hiding, and Luke wants answers but isn't getting any (we don't know why). Jessica is kidnapped by a mystery woman and offered a chance to betray her former friends in the Avengers.

   And there, at least, we finally get some answers, as Ms. Marvel Captain Marvel puts in an appearance and we learn the reasons behind Jessica's problems - and why she's being so secretive.

   But the story isn't over, and there's much more to be revealed and uncovered.

   It's a strong return for the series and it fits well with the TV version, too. It's for adult readers - and highly recommended!

Grade: A-

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Khaal #1

   Titans Comics has been bringing some interesting comics to our shores, and the latest addition is the series Khaal, which is subtitled "The Chronicles of a Galactic Emperor."

   It's a grim tale about life aboard a gigantic space station that was once a prison - but after a galactic version of Armageddon, it's the last stronghold of civilization (more or less), and it feature three alien races struggling for dominance.

   Standing at the top of the heap is the human (ish) leader known as Khaal. (A nice guy he isn't.)

   He holds the reigns thanks to his incredible power (and the secret source of it), which allows him to face challengers in a gladiatorial setting - and stay unbeaten.

   This is an adult story (with violence and sex) and an inventive one, with a big, bold story, terrific art and lots of secrets to sort out.

   It's not for the timid, but it's a strong start to the series.

Grade: B+

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Flash #14

   It's usually a good idea when a series goes back to the basics, and that seems to be the plan for The Flash.

   This issue brings the focus back on the Rogues - Captain Cold, the Mirror Master, Heat Wave, the Trickster, Weather Wizard and Golden Glider.

   The gang of Flash foes has been absent for a while, and the Flash decides it's time to track them down.

   We also meet a few more villains and see Barry Allen and Iris West finally - finally! -  starting to build a relationship.

  So it feels much more like a classic Flash story, and thank goodness for that!

   It's an interesting story by Joshua Williamson and strong art by Carmine Di Giandomenico, with strong character designs and page layouts. (Though I'm not crazy about the lightning bolts around Flash's eyes. Maybe it's just me.)

   After too many issues that were off target, it's great to see The Flash cooking on all cylinders!

Grade: A-

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Mighty Thor #15

   Now that's more like it.

   This issue is very much an "old school" Marvel comic, as it sets up a war between - of all things - the alien Shi'ar and Asgard.

   There's just enough story and subplots to set the stage for a major throw down between the gods of Asgard and the Imperial Guard (which is Marvel's version / copy / homage to the Legion of Super-heroes).

   So why are they at war? Ah, that would be telling - but at least we get a revelation thanks to that last page surprise!

   Kudos to writer Jason Aaron and artist Russell Dauterman on crafting a terrific all-out action issue that gives the cast room to spread their wings and fight!

   Lots of fun!

Grade: A

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New Comics Today

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

- Captain America Steve Rogers #9 - The trial of Maria Hill!

- Daredevil #15 - A matter of faith.

- Flash #14 - The return of Captain Cold!

- Groo: Fray of the Gods #4 - The heavenly (or hellish) finale!

- Jessica Jones #4 - Mystery revealed!

- Mighty Thor #15 - The Shi'ar attack Asgard!

- Totally Awesome Hulk #14 - Fighting a dragon and playing basketball!
   
   And I received review copies of:

- Assassin's Creed Awakening #3 - A new world order!

- Assignment #1 - Revenge in a hit man.

- Chimera Brigade #4 - A world at war.

- Doctor Who 10th Year Three #1 

- Doctor Who 11th Year Three #1 

- Doctor Who 12th Year Two #13 

- Hard Case Crime Triggerman #4 

- Jade Street Protection Services #4 

- Khaal #1 - A prison ship drifts in the void.

- Knight Guardians of Relativity #1 - Investigating a knight's murder.

- Ninjak #23 - The 7 blades of Master Darque.

- Norman the First Slash #2 - A mini-murderer.

- Samurai Brothers in Arms #5 - Rescue mission.

- Sherlock: Blind Banker #1 - A mysterious break-in.

- The Skeptics #3 - How to save the world.

- Vikings Uprising #4 - Fight to survive!

   And that's it!