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Review – Gotham Academy # 1 (2014)

tumblr_na5k4hdzaH1s5gizzo1_1280To begin this review, I must admit that I wasn’t originally going to read this title. I felt like my perception of the title was unfairly skewed by internal biases. I didn’t want to invest in another Bat-title, regardless of whether Batman was a central character or not. I also didn’t really cotton to the premise. It felt like Morning Glories in Gotham on paper. But I changed my mind on the book simply by virtue of the fact that I trust Becky Cloonan. I also really like Karl Kerschl’s artwork, but I’ve ignored books by artists I love before. Essentially, I put my faith in a writer I trust  to make magic with the premise. I’m glad I gave the book the chance, because it is truly something special.

I really haven’t found myself as enthralled in a Gotham title not featuring Batman since All Star Western launched back in 2011. With that title going away, this feels like a worthy replacement in my off-the-wall Gotham reading slot. Titles that play with the periphery of Batman’s world can be a hit or miss affair, but talented writers and artists can really make all the difference in the world.

Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher give us a truly wonderful book unlike anything else DC is publishing at the moment. Focusing on a handful of new characters, primarily on two young teenage girls, the book has the distinction of being one of the most diverse books on the market. In a world where the marketplace is expanding and the demand for characters who are anything but boring white males, a book featuring characters like Olive Silverlock and “Maps” Mizoguchi is a refreshing change of pace.

It is also appreciated that while Cloonan and Fletcher do establish that there is certainly mystery afoot, and the story arc they’ll be unspooling is certainly going to be interesting, the first issue is mainly focused on letting us get to know our protagonists as characters and really flesh them out. The reader is treated to a slow burn of a character study on these two young girls, letting us really get a feel for their personalities so that by the time we understand that things are truly not as they seem at Gotham Academy, we like these characters enough and are invested in them in such a way that the narrative carries a substantive amount of weight. Much like the family drama that drove the majority of Ms. Marvel earlier this year, Olive’s personal troubles and Maps’ enthusiasm for her life at a new school give us a lens through which we can view the stories that Cloonan and Fletcher want to tell.

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I feel like those willing to overlook their own hesitance to try the book, like myself, will find something to enjoy here. Truly a spectacular debut issue and quite possibly my favorite new DC launch in years.


Review – Thor #1 (2014)

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Allow me to be blunt. This is a comic book where on the second page the words “Activating Attack Sharks” is uttered with not a single hint of irony. Yes, in this issue of Thor, a deep ocean sea-lab run by the Roxxon corporation features a defense system consisting of what appear to be technologically enhanced super-sharks, who eventually engage in underwater combat with an army of invading Frost Giants from Jotunheim.

So, in short, it’s pretty much par for the course when it comes to a Thor comic.

The big hullabaloo about this issue has been that the fellow we have come to know and love as Thor is no longer going to be the titular character of the series. In the wake of the crossover event Original Sin, He is unworthy to wield mighty Mjolnir, the hammer that serves as the symbol of his power. Fans fearing that Thor would simply be discarded to make way for a new character will be relieved however, as this first issue in a new series spends a good majority of its time with Thor Classic.

New Thor does not show her face until the final page of the issue. In many ways, the storytelling structure of this issue of Thor is the polar opposite of something like Ms. Marvel # 1. While that issue and series has been a huge success for Marvel, the baseline of the narrative utilized by writer G. Willow Wilson would not suit the type of story that Jason Aaron is attempting to tell here. By the time the first issue of Ms. Marvel came around, the namesake had been vacant for a while as Carol Danvers had transitioned into being Captain Marvel for a bit by that point. The story was able to focus on Kamala Khan taking up the mantle and the circumstances that surrounded her beginning the hero’s journey. With Thor, Aaron seems to be setting up a dual track that will focus on the way that Thor Classic deals with his fall as much as the exploits of whoever it is that takes up the hammer now.

So, does the issue work?

I would say that overall it is a very interesting Thor book. However, I will also admit that I have no connection to the new “Thor” because no attempt has been made to make her anything more than a mystery at this point. At the end of the first issue in this series, ostensibly her series, she is no more fleshed out than she was before the series hit stands. There is no change in my view of her as a concept. As a debut issue in that regard, the book falls short. The book should have given me a reason to stay on board. It should have made a connection between the reader and our new protagonist. If the series is to succeed based on the merit of this new character, shouldn’t we get some inkling of who this new character is as a person? If this book is supposed to center around her, and we are to accept her as our new Thor, making her a side element in the first issue of her own series is not the boldest move to take. Perhaps taking the time to do more setup in the previous volume or even giving the issue the double-sized treatment might have solved some of these problems.

The book is worth a read if you’re a Thor fan. If you were hoping to find something akin to Ms. Marvel, with a fleshed out new female character that sticks the landing on its first issue, this might not be your best bet. For that reason I’m grading it on two separate scales. For longtime Thor fans, this is a solid 8/10. It plays with the lore, we get familiar faces and the best elements of a Thor book are there. For Marvel fans looking to jump on board, it falls closer to a 5/10. The artwork and writing are excellent but the enjoyment you get out of it is qualified by how intrigued you are by Thor and his mythos.

Here’s to hoping issue number two makes significant strides with regards to setting up the titular character.


Review – Wolverine # 1 (2014)

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I want to readily admit that I did not read the last volume of Wolverine. I just sort of missed out on it while it was going on. When I saw that they were relaunching the book, along with a host of others I thought I would give it a try because aside from Wolverine and the X-Men by Jason Aaron I haven’t been following a Wolverine-centric title in a while. Paul Cornell is always a competent writer and I figured it might be interesting to see where his take on the character has wandered.

The book picks up with a depowered Wolverine, stripped of his immortality and made vulnerable to all manner of hurt and injury. He’s sporting some heavy armor to protect himself from the elements of danger that being a superhero will put him in and he’s npw teamed up with a shady character called “The Offer.” This guy from my deductions is some sort of Vito Corleone “makes you a deal you can’t refuse” sort of fellow and he has tasked Wolverine with breaking someone out of a highly guarded facility with the aid of a couple of other folks that I didn’t recognize offhand. The issue focuses mainly on this little mission but there is some flashback to Wolverine’s conversations with Storm regarding the loss of his healing factor that helps put us in Logan’s headspace a little more firmly, or so we are led to believe.

Wolverine is a character that has gone through a number of different looks, personas, and interpretations. Everyone seems to fall back on the outsider/wandering samurai motif but sometimes it is fun to explore other options. Here we get something more akin to the stories of when he was a mercenary. A rogue agent who hadn’t yet found his true affiliation. This time he has some true friends to guide him along, as a scene with Black Widow is particularly effective in showing how he plans to cope with his new situation. The thing that strikes me about this issue, and this iteration of Wolverine, is that the focus seems to be on telling a fun, action oriented story that focuses less on the mysteries of Logan’s past and how it currently affecting him. In fact, the book seems heavily focused on showing Wolverine as a blank slate and the primary directive of the narrative is driven from where he could go in the future.

The ending of the book is supposed to be a shocker but based on context clues within the issue we could have seen it coming. The resolution of that climax however, could go in any number of ways and I’m interested in seeing how Cornell moves forward on the book.

Rating: 3.5/5


Review – Ms. Marvel # 1 (2014)

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I really am not the person who needs to be writing this review. There are many people who have more right to tell you why this book existing is good for Marvel, good for comics, good for diversity, good for female readership, just plain good. I am not the person who should be typing these words. I am a straight, white, male. There are plenty of books on the shelves for me. I can read just about any mainstream title and enjoy a sort of wish-fulfillment fantasy by swapping myself out with the title character. I could be Batman. I could be Captain America. I could be Peter Parker or Tony Stark. I could be Bruce Banner or Wolverine or Superman or Cyclops. The generic template for the superhero is one of the straight white male. We are the default, the blank slate. The starting point for 99.99% of mainstream comic characters. There are some wonderful characters that are more diverse and I am sure they are inspirations to the younger generation of readers discovering comics in this sort of geek renaissance that we are experiencing, but the comic book world needs and deserves more. As a white straight male I understand this. I know that seeing the same white straight male characters ad nauseum gets repetitive and boring. I myself am guilty of being repetitive and boring. I imagine that folks who do not identify as straight white males find it frustrating, to say the least, that there aren’t a greater number of characters out there for them to identify with. Marvel seems to be attempting to rectify that by not only developing new characters that stand apart from their white male brethren, but giving them real focus in their own books. We’re getting a Latino Ghost Rider solo book soon, people. Sit and think on that for a minute.

So Ms. Marvel is indeed a refreshing book. We have a female lead, still a teenager dealing with school and family issues in the tradition of great Marvel heroes like Peter Parker. We have a character who is of Pakistani descent living in New Jersey in a post-9/11 world, dealing with the ramifications of her own culture as it relates to her social life or lack thereof. If anything, this book is one of the most honest looks at the perception of “the foreign other” in the high school structure that I can remember in recent memory. I had a good friend in high school who went through much of the same struggle that our protagonist, Kamala, goes through in this issue; the balance of faith and family with school and societal norms. Kamala is a very realized character. She wears her inner conflict on her sleeve. Who she is and who she wants to be are at odds with each other in a way that feels very human and real. She is a teenage girl dealing with serious issues, the escapism that she seeks through writing Avengers fan-fiction is a solid indicator of what Kamala truly is like as a person. She longs for power as a means of control, not of others but of herself. She sees strength in The Avengers and admires it.

From a writer’s standpoint the issue is quite strong. We are introduced to the character and we organically learn her motivation. We take the journey with her and we can empathize with her because even if everyone reading the book isn’t Muslim, we all can sympathize with being a teenager and disagreeing with our parents over the level of trust and responsibility we were mature enough to bear. That is why it is so important to have books and characters like these, because there is an across the board connection that we can feel with the character regardless of our race or upbringing. There is a universal quality to any character in a comic book. We can relate to a talking raccoon and his sapling BFF so we should easily be able to identify with another human being, regardless of their nationality or heritage. But it is important that these characters exist for that one comic reader who is the real-life iteration of Kamala who wants to be represented in graphic fiction. She deserves this character. We all deserve this character.

Artistically speaking the book is an A-plus effort. Adrian Alphona puts some gorgeous artwork on display. It takes me back to the days when Runaways was still being published and makes me wish there was more stylistically emboldened artwork like this on more titles. The colors and the expressiveness of the characters blend together to make a truly astonishing debut issue that sets it apart from the myriad other first issues that hit the stands on any given week. Honestly, the book is simply gorgeous.

I shouldn’t be the one saying this but everyone should buy this book. It is an important book. But it is also a good book. Sometimes we have to suffer through importance but this time around we actually get to enjoy it. So please take the time to do so.

Rating: 5/5


Dawn of the Trailer of Dawn of the Planet Of The Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a damn fine film, all Franco aside. This looks like they’re taking things in a crazy dark direction and playing it completely straight once again at the same time which could make for a very interesting sequel indeed.


Marvel Bombshell – Charles Soule Replacing Matt Fraction on INHUMAN

InHuman_Teaser_Big-final2Following up on the news that Inhuman would be getting delayed by months, Bleeding Cool is reporting a major bombshell that Matt Fraction will no longer be writing the title citing “creative and editorial differences.” The book was meant to be a reintroduction of the Inhumans in a big way to the Marvel universe under Fraction’s direction but he has been replaced on the title by writer Charles Soule, who is coming up in a big way at the moment penning books like Superman/Wonder Woman, Letter 44, as well as Marvel’s upcoming She-Hulk # 1.

I don’t want to speculate about what sort of creative decisions may have been made with regard to the series that would have caused Fraction to walk, but I’ll stake my reputation on it being Marvel not wanting to dedicate a six issue arc to Chip Zdarsky’s experiences with the terrigen mists that gave him the power to ink and color his own artwork with lavish strokes of his genitals. [*please note that I do not actually believe this except I sort of do and will not redact it until Chip Zdarsky releases a statement otherwise.]


22 Jump Street Red Band Trailer

21 Jump Street was one of the funniest movies of 2012. They teased a sequel at the end of the film and that sequel now has a red band teaser trailer which I have handily embedded for your viewing pleasure. Let’s hope that it isn’t a colossal waste of time because, lets be honest, it certainly could be.


First Teaser for Chris Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR

Christopher Nolan has built up a tremendous amount of goodwill and the fact that he seems hellbent on making really interesting sci-fi makes me really happy. I don’t know anything about this film based off of the teaser, but I sure as hell wanna see it.


Amazing Spider-Man 2 Trailer

I liked the first Amazing Spider-Man quite a bit. Everything I have been seeing about the second installment makes me dubious. This trailer has some high points and some low points but I do think that within the world they are building a lot of what they are doing makes sense. Would I prefer a more classic take on Rhino and Electro? Sure. But I think I’ll give this a shot before I tear it apart.


DC Planning Smaller Budget Films Starting in 2014

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One of the most pervasive bits of internet discussion since around 2008 has been DC vs. Marvel in terms of cinematic output. The year that The Dark Knight and Iron Man hit theaters, fanboys began speculating as to who had a better handle on their characters. In the years since, Marvel has assembled the Avengers and is expanding their universe to a deal with Netflix so everyone can get a little bit of screen time. Meanwhile, DC has been somewhat sluggish in establishing themselves on screen. Batman completed a trilogy, Green Lantern tanked, and Man of Steel seems to be their first step in establishing a larger over-arching universe. Essentially, they’re trying to play catch up in terms of branding. Some other smaller DC projects hit theaters in that time period (Jonah Hex was a thing, people. Never forget) but DC properties on film haven’t felt as cohesive as Marvel’s.

Now the word has come down the pike that DC is investing in smaller-budgeted film adaptations of their properties. According to reports, DC wants to release two smaller feature films per year starting in 2014. Suicide Squad, Booster Gold, Team 7, and Deathstroke have been mentioned. These films would be produced for around 20-30 million, making it easier for DC to recoup the money spent and hopefully grow their brand to a place that the general public understands that they have a shared universe the way Marvel does.

I think this is a great idea but again I have to question DC’s methods. Is the best way to get people excited about a shared DC universe? Is anyone really going to get excited about a Team 7 film? Also nobody has really remarked on how they plan to tie these things together. With Marvel, all of their films flowed into each other leading up to an eventual endgame with The Avengers. The obvious endgame for DC would be a Justice League film, but how does Deathstroke’s solo film tie into that. I just don’t see what the bigger picture is here other than using the DC brand for a 2x a year cash-grab.

This, to me, is indicative of DC’s production problems in general. They want Marvel’s success but they don’t want to put in the hard work. It’s why we’re getting a new Batman shoehorned into the Superman sequel instead of letting both characters breathe on their own. Eventually, when these parts are all supposed to come together, it will be a miracle if they fit properly because, from what I can tell, there is no master plan to this yet. DC simply wants to throw characters at us until something sticks.

I don’t think it would have been too much to ask for DC to follow up Man of Steel with, perhaps, a decent Flash movie that itself led into a Wonder Woman film, leading into a new Batman, showing off the diversity of the DC characters individually instead of throwing these characters into teamup films. I believe that it will be hard for people to care about these characters if they aren’t handled well. The smaller budget films may end up doing well, and if they do I think it will be because fans get a whole film dedicated to a property rather than getting half of a film about an intriguing concept as they appear in another character’s film.


Daredevil Returns in March 2014 with All New # 1, All Same Team

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The folks over at Nerdist broke the news today that Daredevil, previously reported to be ending with issue thirty-six, will be getting an all-new # 1 issue in March with the creative team of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee handling Daredevil’s move to the west coast, San Francisco to be precise. Longtime readers of Daredevil will note that Matt Murdoch spent some time in the city back in the seventies running around town with Black Widow.

I am personally relieved that Mark Waid and Chris Samnee are sticking around, as they have made Daredevil one of Marvel’s best, most consistent titles and I would have been weeping tears of nerdly sadness if they left the book after such a short run. Here’s hoping they get 100 collective issues together before they’re through. I don’t care how many new issue ones it takes.


Issues With Digital Comics Issues

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Publisher’s Weekly recently put out an article regarding Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s excellent comic series Sex Criminals and the trouble that has been kicked up around Apple banning the book from being available for purchase within the Comixology app. The first issue made it through with no real issue but the second and third issues were blocked followed by the first issue being retroactively pulled. According to the article over 50 issues have been rejected by Apple this year. In the same year where digital comic sales on Comixology topped 200 million for the first time, more and more books are hitting stumbling blocks due to Apple’s terms and conditions for acceptability. As many are pointing out, this is a major reason why Android has started to take over a significant portion of the market share for portable devices. Personally I much prefer my Nexus 7 tablet over my old iPad. But this article isn’t about what electronics I prefer, it’s about the very serious debate regarding digital versus physical media.

I understand the drawbacks of owning actual issues all too well. I have forty longboxes filled with comic books that I will simply be unable to store much longer. But the drawbacks of digital collecting right now are so wide and varied that I have issues giving up my issues. First and foremost, there is the big issue that with Comixology you don’t really own your issues. Think about it. They’re somewhere on Comixology’s server. You sync them to your device but you don’t have the files backed up on a hard-drive somewhere because companies are afraid you’ll just distribute the books on torrent networks and drive them out of business. Image seems to eschew this by offering DRM free copies of their books on their website. But Comixology has created a sort of popularized monopoly on digital comics and having a single app to read ALL your favorite comics is so simple and convenient that they have become the online equivalent of Diamond Comics Distributors, for all intents and purposes. This may not be a major issue for some folks. Some people just want to read the books and forget about them afterward. But I enjoy re-reading books, it’s why I have so many boxes filled with issues and so many shelves lined with trade paperbacks. One day there may come a time when Comixology finds itself in financial trouble and you may no longer be able to access your comics. Is it a remote possibility? Yes, but it is a possibility.

Digital comics should not be this hard to make work. Image Comics direct model seems to be the best way to go about it. Download the issues at a fair price, DRM free in the format of your choosing. Marvel seems to be making a move to do something in-house with their digital comics that could be a step away from Comixology but, again, it seems to be based on a proprietary model where you do not actually own your comics. Until a system comes a long where I can safely feel as if i have ownership of my digital issues, I will not be able to switch completely. The convenience just isn’t as convenient as a regular pull list for me.


Comic Review – Harley Quinn # 0

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There has been a lot of ink spilled about the controversy surrounding this Harley Quinn series. Mainly around that “tryout” page where artists were encouraged to draw a scene depicting the title character preparing to commit suicide in a bathtub with electrical devices hanging above her. There were plenty of good arguments made as to why that was a bad idea. The fact that it got hyped up in the middle of suicide prevention awareness month was a major blunder. We could easily spend a couple thousand words talking about whether a book focusing on a character who is clearly mentally deranged needs to walk the logistical tightrope of addressing a topic like suicide. No amount of context or satirical intent will silence certain elements on either side of the argument. I’m going to say that Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner are good people. I’ve never seen anything that would indicate either of them was looking for a cheap laugh, or to make light of suicide as a topic. It just isn’t in their character.

So the first thing I have to do while discussing this issue is point out that the panel in question does not appear in the final product. The talent search yielded a page by Jeremy Roberts where most of the page remains intact but the panel depicting the suicide is absent, replaced by a panel with Harley riding an Apollo style rocket in outer space. Within the context of the book, the fourth-wall breaking creators are discussing Harley’s role in the Suicide Squad, which would explain the panel in question. Honestly, with that context, it makes perfect sense. I applaud everyone involved for seeing that it is a sensitive topic however and going in a different direction. The page in question gives off a vibe of Harley’s perceived death wish without diving into the mental illness/suicide quagmire.

I know I dedicated a lot more space on that little issue than I intended. I wanted to cover the actual issue, not the issues people had before the book came out. So let’s start from the beginning.

This book is good. It’s fun. It put a smile on my face. Why? Well, Palmiotti and Conner have a playful tone that carries throughout and they manage to find a through-line for Harley criss-crossing through various art styles while breaking the fourth wall and showing us that Harley truly can be a versatile character. The book is essentially Amanda and Jimmy showing that there are an infinite number of possibilities for Harley as a character and, with the correct art team, any one of them could be a viable long-running series. This is an introductory issue where Harley has to figure out what Harley wants to be. It’s a metatextual commentary on the creation of comics itself filtered through a character who, for all intents and purposes, could be viewed as simply one dimensional.

I think that freed from the constraints placed upon her by the Suicide Squad book, this title could truly be a blast. Honestly, I was reminded of the way that Jimmy and Justin Gray put such a fun spin on Power Girl, who much like Harley had infinite numbers of interpretations waiting in the wings. No character is without merit, and while I personally don’t have much of a connection to Harley and only really found her intriguing within the context of Batman The Animated Series, I think this issue is one of the more solid releases DC has put out in a while. It certainly surprised me in ways I wasn’t expecting.

I say go in with an open mind and see where the issue takes you. You may find yourself surprised where you end up.

Rating: 4/5


Comic Review – Unity # 1

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The landscape of comics has been an ever shifting puzzle. Trends rise and fall, creators come in and out of favor, companies disappear and emerge from the ashes of their presumed demise. Valiant comics was founded back in 1989 by former Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Jim Shooter and artist Bob Layton following Shooter’s ouster from the company in the wake of a massive personnel shakeup. The company launched a number of titles that still populate comic store dollar bins to this day, while retaining a sizable fanbase of loyal customers. The company was sold off in 1994 to video game developer Acclaim who eventually shut the branch down ten years later in 2004.

The company was jump-started in 2005 and after a few years of rebuilding and restructuring Valiant took home the Publisher of the Year award from Diamond Comics Distributors in 2012, the same year of the “Summer of Valiant” promotional blitz that saw the relaunch of X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Bloodshot and Archer & Armstrong.

With 2013, Valiant launches a mega-event, tying together a majority of their properties and gives us Unity, a story where the Valiant universe bands together to stop X-O Manowar. The company founded by Jim Shooter, the man who birthed the mega-event craze with Secret Wars finally, finally steps up to the grown up’s table to cut themselves a slice of the big boy’s pie.

So how does the book measure up, you may ask?

Honestly, Valiant Comics aren’t much on my radar, aside from Greg Pak’s excellent reboot of Eternal Warrior. I don’t know much of anything about the characters within the pages of this book. Luckily, the issue begins with a Jonathan Hickman style infographic to get us all caught up on the wheelings and dealings regarding X-O Manowar, a character who is causing all sorts of problems. He’s essentially a caveman with the power of a nuclear reactor and that of course makes some folks very nervous.

A team is assembled and a plan devised to make sure that World War III doesn’t break out because of X-O’s occupation of a part of the Russian subcontinent. Led by Toyo Harada, a force is assembled to infilitrate the area and put an end to the devestation of X-O’s occupation, cultivated from the best and brightest of the new generation of superpowered individuals. On the ground, Ninjak works in stealth under Harada’s direction and nothing at all really goes according to plan.

I honestly found myself a little confused, as writer Matt Kindt doesn’t really do much to explain who these people are for the uninitiated. He hits the ground running at a hundred miles per hour and never lets up. This is definitely a book for the Valiant faithful. This feels very much like it has been built up in other books that I haven’t personally invested in.

The writing in and of itself is structured excellently, and Braithwaite’s pencils are dynamic and vivid. I feel like it is better prepared and creatively manufactured than what DC is doing with Forever Evil, that is to be sure. I attribute that to the lead-time the book has gotten as I’ve been seeing promotional material for it for what seems like a year. Valiant seems to have a lot riding on this one and they made a lot of good choices here. Hiring Matt Kindt was one of the smartest. That guy is everywhere and with good reason, he has great skill in surprising people. He’s surprised me on numerous occasions.

If you’re looking to get in on the Valiant renaissance, Unity seems like a good place to get started. You might want to do some research beforehand, but the product here is satisfying enough even to a newbie like myself.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5


Sandman Overture # 2 Delayed to February 2014

sandmanoverturebanner-726x248Sandman Overture # 1 hit stores on October 30th and while it was expected to ship every other month with issue two coming in this December, Diamond has notified retailers that issue two has been pushed to February with orders for the solicited December issue cancelled outright. People are predictably blaming artist JH Williams for the delay and expressing disappointment over a series that had over a year of lead-in time already being affected by delays. This is yet another blow to DC’s image that it doesn’t need right now. The response to the first issue, at least from my standpoint in the retail end of things, was overwhelmingly positive. I don’t imagine that this delay will affect sales all that much, as those who were dead set on picking up the issues of Sandman will do so no matter when they hit stands, but at a time when DC needs fewer bullet points for the online community to take pot shots at you can imagine that one of their most hyped and anticipated series seeing a two month delay is at the top of the pile for things they don’t want to deal with.


Humphries’ Uncanny X-Force Coming To An Uncanny End

Uncanny-X-Force-BannerSam Humphries made the announcement on his Tumblr page that his run on Uncanny X-Force will be coming to an end with issue number 17 early next year. This comes as sad news to me, who only yesterday started reading the series on the suggestion of my co-worker who praised it as the best X-book on the stands right now. I am currently loving all the x-books and think everyone working on those titles are doing a bang-up job, with major props to Brian Wood and Brian Bendis for revitalizing the line after my own interest had started to flag a little bit.

Uncanny X-Force is indeed every bit as good as my cohort describes. If you aren’t reading it you should definitely give it a read. It has a very distinct voice when coupled with all the other X-books. Humphries instills characters like Psylocke and Storm with a boldness and unique voice that I personally feel they have sorely lacked in the past. Also, anybody who has the good sense to realize that Puck deserves to get some of the spotlight from time to time deserves a whole heap of praise.

Humphries and Garney put together a truly special x-book that I am sad to see go. I wish I would have been able to go along for the ride from the beginning. I’ll follow through with it to the end now, though. I hope I’m not alone.


Film Review – Thor : The Dark World

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When Marvel Studios released Thor in 2011, they entered into a different realm with their productions. Iron Man II and Incredible Hulk had begun laying the groundwork for The Avengers but the tone of those films were very similar. They were scientifically based superheroes, if you want to use that word, operating on a very heightened level of reality. With Thor, Marvel pushed the limit and blurred the lines between fantasy and sci-fi in a way that was very impressive, considering that had it failed to connect, the Avengers as a project may never have come together the way it did.

Thor – The Dark World, the sequel to 2011’s Thor is very much another example of Marvel pushing boundaries with how they want to test the public’s acceptance of genre-bending comic adaptations. Which is why Thor – The Dark World is basically the best Star Wars movie to come out in the last two decades. Looking at parts of it, Thor – The Dark World seems like a space opera in a fantasy setting more than anything else. Truly, it is astounding how fearless they were in putting this whole thing together. Moreso than the first Thor film, The Dark World asks a lot of the audience in terms of world building and genremashing filmmaking.

Of course, The Dark World is as much a sequel to The Avengers as it is the first Thor Film. They have much more leeway to play with themes and story-lines here than they otherwise might. The fallout regarding Loki is paid off here, and the second and third acts of the film are very much Loki-centric. Tom Hiddleston continues to shine as the darker foil to Hemsworth’s Thor, but their chemistry together here cannot be understated. Chris Hemsworth’s role as straight man to Hiddleston’s charming rogue is as just as deserving of praise, if not more. If Marvel has done anything right in their movies at all, it has been casting actors for these roles that play off against each other magnificently. Downey Jr. and Ruffalo, Hemsworth and Hiddleston, etc. All of these actors elevate the material in ways lesser actors could not.

The Dark World is definately a step up from 2011’s Thor, if only because the scope is intensified tenfold. We get more of Asgard here, more witty interplay between our central characters, and action that while not as grand as the climax as the Avengers, is perfectly in line with a sequel of this nature. The only shortfall that I can find with the film is that Christopher Eccleston is mostly wasted in his role as Malekith. Eccleston is a fine actor and his role in G.I. Joe – The Rise of Cobra had more meat on its bones than he is able to display here. I think much of that may stem from the fact that he is speaking an alien tongue for 90% of the runtime, but also his motivations and reasons for being the central antagonist do not get developed beyond rudimentary exposition dumps.

I think they truly nailed this one. Not many will find fault with this entry. They take risks that pay off well in the end. Those who so strongly opposed Iron Man III‘s narrative twists will not find anything similarly enraging here. This is the Marvel Phase II film that folks have been waiting for.

Rating: 7/10


Cataclysm – The Ultimates’ Last Stand # 1 Review

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Last week I reviewed the 0.1 issue of Cataclysm that set the stage for what would come in the event series that, supposedly, will herald the end of the Ultimate Universe. This week I took a look at the first issue of the series, based almost entirely off of the fact that Brian Michael Bendis was on scripting duties with Mark Bagley handling the art. These are the guys who defined the Ultimate Universe, for me at least, and seeing them pal back up to possibly bring it to a close put a measure of confidence in the project for me on a personal level. Bendis feels like the person who should be writing this. As much as Millar and Hitch shepherded The Ultimates through two volumes and revolutionized comics in a very substantial way, Bendis sustained Ultimate Spider-Man as the tentpole of the universe and that book is, to many (myself included) the heart and soul of the Ultimate universe.

So how does the book measure up?

Like I admitted last week, I haven’t been knee deep in the Ultimate Universe for a while. I fell of off Ultimate Spider-Man around the third arc of Miles Morales’ time as the ultimate webspinner, and I’m only remotely aware of the goings on in the rest of the line. If we look at the book as a real game changer for the universe, even if it isn’t meant to be the end of the line, it holds up quite well. Compare it to say, Ultimatum, and you notice right away that the character beats of the book hold up much better. The action is a bit understated, considering that it is Galactus essentially destroying New Jersey, but the reaction of Miles Morales to such an overwhelming threat is in line with what you expect a young hero to exude during a crisis.

Bagley’s art is what we have come to expect from him, though it looks more finely finished than when he was working on Ultimate Spider-Man on a monthly basis. There is definition and scale that really works in the book’s favor.

I wasn’t entirely sold on the event based on last week’s debut, but this issue has me intrigued and I truly do want to see where things go. Right now I don’t have the slightest clue. Just a bunch of wild speculations bouncing around in my brain.

Rating: 4/5


All-New Ms. Marvel coming February 2014

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Comic Book Resources is reporting that Marvel is set to debut a new Ms. Marvel title in spring 2014, featuring a brand-new character taking on the mantle and, much to the surprise of many in the internet community, it will feature a Muslim teenager and be written by a female writer. You’ll have to excuse me while I take this all in. You see, on the same day that the internet shat it’s collective trousers over Brian Michael Bendis tweeting out a photo of the Marvel retreat that featured a solo female, we get a new title featuring a POC lead written by a female writer, and a hell of a talented one at that. G. Willow Wilson wrote Air for Vertigo a few years back and it was a damn fine piece of graphic literature. It didn’t last nearly long enough in my opinion and I am happy to see someone with such talent creating and shaping a new character and title at one of the mainstream comic companies.

I don’t normally spend much of my time bemoaning the lack of diversity in media. This blog has almost no reach. I feel like I’m shouting in a room filled with stuffed animals I believe are real when I start to pontificate too heavily. That having been said, there is a serious lack of diversity in mainstream comics. We don’t have nearly enough A-list female talent, or roundly beloved creators that aren’t old white dudes honestly. I mean, as a crusty white dude myself you would think I’d want to keep my mouth shut but I’m also a reader of comics. And part of the reason so many titles run together for me and fail to keep my interest is because the point of view of the person holding the pen is the same as twenty of his peers. I am happy that we have our Gail Simones rallying female creators for projects like Legends of Red Sonja. I am happy we have people like Kelly Sue DeConnick changing the public dialog about what diversity in comics really means. And G. Willow Wilson taking on Ms. Marvel puts a big ol’ smile on my face as well. She obviously has a lot she wants to say with the character.

The new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, will reportedly be a New Jersey native with relatives in Pakistan and be a huge fangirl for Carol Danvers, the previous Ms. Marvel and current Captain Marvel. The character is described as a shape-shifter and according Wilson admires Danvers because she leads the existence that the young Kamala wishes to attain. As Willow said, “She’s strong, beautiful and doesn’t have any of the baggage of being Pakistani and ‘different.'” Willow herself having some familiarity with that conflict, as she herself converted to Islam even going so far as to release a memoir about the experience.

The book will be released in February 2014 and feature artwork from original Runaways artist Adrian Alphona. We can only speculate as to whether the fan support this book will have can equal the momentum of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel and the “Carol Corps.” I’ll begin drafting ideas for the fan group name now, anyway.


Comic Review – Ultimate Comics Cataclysm #0.1

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I have to admit that I stopped reading the Ultimate line a while ago. After the second arc of Miles Morales’ turn as Spider-Man, I believe. I just lost interest because the line didn’t seem to grab me the way it did when it was first launched. I think it was a steady roll to apathy that began with Ultimatum. I don’t have any investment in the universe as a whole anymore so Cataclysm is an outlier for me. It is something that catches my eye because it is supposedly going to be the end of the Ultimate universe, though that isn’t totally confirmed, and that as a concept seems like something I would be interested in seeing executed well.

The problem then, at least for me, is that there is no attachment to the characters and their universe when I picked up this issue. For current fans of the Ultimate universe, I feel the book might resonate a bit better than it did with me. But the attitude on display here seems self-referential, like Marvel is aware of the fact that the Ultimate Universe expirement has run its course and needs to come to an end. There is a point where the 616 version of Galactus states emphatically that “this universe is broken.” While the Ultimate Vision pleads that it can be saved. I think the crux of the book falls in that simple argument; is the Ultimate Universe worth keeping around?

Aside from Ultimate Spider-Man and perhaps Brian Wood’s Ultimate X-Men, the ultimate titles are mostly stagnant at the store which employs me. Some titles have a core following, but not like they did half a decade ago.

Perhaps it is time to bury this universe. The question is whether or not this event will do it in a manner befitting one of the only alternate universe lines not to immediately tank itself.

Rating: 3/5


Days of Future Past Trailer Online Now (Online Then?) *I Hate Time Travel **But Love Doctor Who ***That Is A Paradox ****Which Is One Of The Things I Hate About Time Travel

And that my friends is the sound of a lonely Bishop fan fist-pumping the air.


Comic Review – Velvet # 1

VelvetEd Brubaker and Steve Epting are a powerhouse team. Their work on Captain America is the best the character is likely ever going to see for the foreseeable future. You can thank Ed Brubaker personally for revitalizing the character to the point where he wasn’t a joke to the majority of the comic buying public. It is also a testament to his work that the next film will be drawing largely from his lore. The reason his Marvel work resonated so much is because Ed Brubaker knows how to play with convention and genre tropes, respectfully, while turning them on their ear and defying expectations.

Brubaker’s work with Velvet is more of what we have come to expect from him. Character work and atmosphere. Plot and mood. Much like his other creator-owned work, such as Fatale, Incognito, or Criminal, the world that we are dropped into feels fully realized and developed. Like stories have been being told about these characters for years and the blood and sweat has been spilled over them before we ever crack the page. It doesn’t come off as inaccessible, because we fill in gaps in our knowledge fairly quickly with pertinent details of the who and general back-story, but the book feels very much like the middle of a longer story with fully realized characters and that works very much to its advantage.

Velvet is a period piece, set in the 1970s with flashbacks to the sixties and all of it feels like a James Bond novel filtered through the lens of a grungy late-seventies film renaissance aesthetic. Like if Coppola directed You Only Live Twice. Steve Epting’s art is vibrant while being simultaneously moody and portrays the eras of the narrative with equal distinction and clarity.

Personally, I think this is his best work since he launched Criminal a few years ago. It is a well plotted, tightly-paced, impeccably drawn espionage genre yarn that resembles nothing else on the rack. Brubaker knows how to write a spy thriller, he did it quite well on his Captain America run, but freed from the reigns of Marvel’s editorial hands, he can truly let loose and keep us guessing from month to month. The only guess we can be confident in making is that each issue will be better than the last.

Rating : 4/5


Captain America – The Winter Soldier Trailer

This looks MUCH bigger in scope than the first one and feels like a real comic book movie in a lot of ways. I really cannot wait to see the finished product.


Comic Review – Pretty Deadly # 1

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I grew up watching westerns. Not by choice, really. My dad was obsessed with John Wayne. He named me after a John Wayne movie, for crying out loud. I never did get into The Duke myself, although The Searchers is now one of my all time favorites and I absolutely love a few others, like Rio Bravo, True Grit, and The Shootist. My real love of westerns came almost by accident. My dad being a John Wayne fan meant inevitably that I would skew against his tastes and end up a bigger fan of  folks like Clint Eastwood. The spaghetti western spoke to me in ways that the usual “cowboys and indians” stuff my dad enjoyed simply couldn’t. It was the moral ambiguity, the dirt and the grime and the absurdity of those films that really got me searching out other westerns. I took in all the Leone westerns, my favorite being a tossup between Once Upon a Time In The West or The Good The Bad and The Ugly. I found the Django movies and Lee Van Cleef’s Sabata series. Latter day westerns like Unforgiven, Tombstone, and Open Range also made their way into my DVD collection.

I also happen to enjoy western comics. I have a complete run of Palmiotti and Gray’s Jonah Hex series from the pre-New 52 days in issue format. I think I was the only person in the store who had it on their pull-list at the time. I’m also still digging the hell out of All-Star Western, though that is so cross genre I’m not sure if it counts. I’ll say it does and beg you to read the trades if you haven’t already, as it’s an overlooked gem at DC. Remember Brian Azzarello’s Loveless? I Do, and I loved it enough to get it signed when I met him a few years back. I don’t know if all this has something to do with me being from Texas, but I’ll wager it is a factor. The genre simply speaks to me on a certain level, so when I heard that Kelly Sue DeConnick would be teaming with Emma Rios to write a western book for Image I got real excited real quick. Kelly Sue is one of the finest writers working right now. She’s getting a lot of respect for her work on Captain Marvel which is more than deserved as that book is just aces. DeConnick previously worked with Rios on their Osborne mini-series for Marvel, which was well written and filled with dark, emotive artwork. That team working together on a creator-owned western book was bound to pique my interest.

Issue one drops today and it is a stunning book. I’ve sung the praises of the creator-owned comic renaissance we seem to be in the middle of before when talking about Sex Criminals and Rocket Girl, this book certainly gives credence to my claims. Pretty Deadly is a book that defies genre expectations and utilizes every aspect of the graphic medium to tell a story that is intriguing, beautiful and unlike anything else on the stands. While it is most certainly a western book, elements of more whimsical and introspective genres creep into the text as well. The traveling “blind man” and the young girl evoke Eastern manga and film imagery from “Zatoichi” and “Lone Wolf and Cub.” Considering the history of Japanese and American culture borrowing from each other, with Seven Samurai becoming The Magnificent Seven and Unforgiven being turned into a samurai film called Yurusarezaru mono, this blending of genres feels organic and not at all like a forced mash-up. This also creates a very somber tone that puts it more in line with the modern cinematic western aesthetic of say, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, but with the added twist of a supernatural element.

The closest model that I can reference for the tone of this book is Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. That melding of genres seems similar to what DeConnick and Rios are presenting here, although Pretty Deadly steers mostly clear of absurdity and stays more in line with a feeling of dark fantasy within a western setting. When I say there is nothing like it on the stands, I am not exaggerating. Pretty Deadly is an inventive, original title that deserves all the acclaim that it can handle. I had exceedingly high hopes for this book and they were met on every level. The narrative structure is well crafted and tells an inventive story that plays with genre tropes and conventions without getting trapped in them while the artwork is gorgeous, dark, and evocative of the exact mood this book requires. The creative team really hit the nail on the head.

All things considered, this is the definite pick of the week if not the pick of the month. Do yourself a favor and get your copy today.

Rating: 5/5