Sunday, December 25, 2011

Moving Time

As 2011 winds down, I have decided to close down this blog.  It originally began as a "sister" blog to my Science Fiction Times.  Upon further review I am combining this back into the Science Fiction Times blog. 

My current plans are to review graphic novels on a weekly basis.  I will publish a tentative schedule.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

Y: The Last Man Vol. 1: Unmanned

Writer:  Brian K. Vaughn 
Penciller:  Pia Guerra 
Inker:  Jose Marzan, Jr. 
Collects issues 1-5 
Title:  Unmanned 

In the summer of 2002, a plague of unknown origin destroyed everything containing a Y chromosome with the exception of one young man and his pet monkey.  The "gendercide" instantaneously exterminated 48% of the global population, or approximately 2.9 billion men. 

Now, aided by the mysterious Agent 355, the last human male Yorick Brown must contend with dangerous extremists, a hoped for reunion with a girlfriend on the other side of the globe, and the search for exactly why he's the only man to survive. 

Brian K. Vaughn has set up a very interesting world in this series.  The reader is learning about it as Yorick tries to figure out what happened.  The viewpoint cuts to others at times to present the various possibilities.  The mystery is that, at least at this point in the story, the characters are not exactly sure who caused the death of the men. 

Yorik is not a common name.  The best known use of it was in Shakespeare's Hamlet when Hamlet exhumed the skull of Yorick.  Yorick was a court jester whose skull shows that death is unavoidable.   

Another modern usage of Yorik is in the Star Wars:  New Jedi Order series.  In this series, the Yuuzhan Vong use the mighty yorik-trema to attack.  The yorik-trema is a bio-engineered transport vessel. 

If the reader were to combine those definitions, it would imply that Yorik Brown is a light hearted man but that death is inevitable for him.  He would also be the bio-engineered system used to transport the plague.  I will be curious to see if any of this proves to be the case. 

In the new world, Yorik's mother is the president of the United States.  Yorik undertakes a journey to join up with his her.  The problem is that any surviving man will be a target for the radical extremists.  So Yorik puts on a cloak and a gas mask to cover his identity.  Along the way Yorik runs into many obstacles. Vaughn does a good job of imagining what the new world would be like.  The classic journey for the hero is a good way of driving the story.   

The other situation that Vaughn establishes is that Yorik’s girlfriend is in Australia.  In the manner of the classic quest story the author sends Yorik on a double quest.  First he will travel to Washington D.C. to find his mother.  Then he plans on traveling to Australia to reunite with his girlfriend.  Vaughn has patterned the tale on the classic after the disaster quest story.  It is in the same genre as “Damnation Alley” by Roger Zelazny, 
“On the Beach” by Nevil Shute, “Earth Abides” by George Stewart, the many novels of J. G. Ballard, “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter Miller, and Kirkman’s “Walking Dead”. 

The art by Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan, Jr. does not get in the way of the story.  It is very reminiscent of Chas Truog's art in Grant Morrison's “Animal Man”.  The panel designs are very basic old school comic book art.  Do not expect the detail or innovative layouts of someone like George Perez.  The art tells the story.  In this day and age, that is something that many artists forget.  At times the artists did not use sequential storytelling.  In those instances the eye is led to follow the action in the wrong direction.  The action of a character leads the reader’s eyes to the left.  Unfortunately, this is on the left side of the page so the only option is to read to the right.  With some slight repositioning of the action, the story would flow much better.  I get the impression that many of the current artists need to spend more time studying “Comics and Sequential Art” by Will Eisner.  It is a classic text that shows you how to design your pages to use the art to help with the flow of the story.  Guerra does a better job than many of today’s artists with the storytelling.  With a little more attention to the sequential storytelling, the art would be raised to the next level.  In general the artists do an acceptable job. 

Overall this is a very good start to a series.  If you are looking for story driven comics, this is the book for you.  I found myself interested in learning more about the changes to our world.  The initial mysteries held my interest.  I will be reading the other volumes in this series. 


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Zenith: Book 1: Tygers

Writer:  Grant Morrison
Artist:  Steve Yeowell

Zenith is one of the "Holy Grail" books for me. It has only appeared in collected form in England. Some imported copies have appeared but I always seem to miss them at conventions. I finally managed to track them down and they were definitely worth the search.

"Zenith Book 1" is another great Morrison read. The story begins with the showdown between the British superhero "Maximan" and the Nazi superhero "Masterman" at the end of World War II. Maximan is overly confident and Masterman easily beats him. At this time, the Americans drop the atomic bomb on the duo bringing an end to the conflict.

Back in England, their scientists use the procedure to create a super team called Cloud 9. Cloud 9 become the darlings of the 60s. Two of them end up together and become parents to the first of the next generation of heros-Zenith. Unfortunately for them, Zenith is only interested in partying and his music career. He does enough heroic acts to help further his career.

Unknown to the winners of WWII, a secret cult survived the war. They are followers of "The Many Angled Ones" who were the real power behind Masterman. As their plot unfolds, Zenith is forced into teaming up with the remaining members of Cloud 9 to take on the new Masterman and his masters.

This is a well thought out, tightly plotted, mystery filled story that is another example of why Morrison is one of my favorite comic book writers.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fantastic Four 1 2 3 4

Writer:  Grant Morrison
Artist:  Jae Lee

The art by Jae Lee was a disappointment. It was not in the same class as his work on "The Inhumans". At times it looked good but overall it was sloppy. Sometimes it was hard to tell who the characters were. A more consistent art job would have helped the story.
Grant Morrison's story had flashes of brilliance but was not his best work. The concept of Doctor Doom being the bad part of Reed Richard's mind brought to life was intriguing. In Doom's mind, this makes Reed the biggest villain in the world. It absolves him of blame. All of the atrocities performed by Doctor Doom are actually Reed's fault. It is an interesting look into a fantasy created by a madman.
Doctor Doom's plot fell apart too easily at the end. "1 2 3 4" is a decent Fantastic Four story but there are many that are much better.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Batwoman Volume 1: Elegy

From Goodreads...
A new era begins as Batwoman is unleashed on Gotham City! Marked by the blood-red bat emblem, Kate Kane is a soldier fighting her own private war - one that began years ago and haunts her every waking moment. In this first tale, Batwoman battles a madwoman known only as Alice, inspired by Alice in Wonderland, who sees her life as a fairy tale and everyone around her as expendable extras! 

Batwoman must stop Alice from unleashing a toxic death cloud over all of Gotham City -- but Alice has more up her sleeve than just poison, and Batwoman's life will never ever be the same again. 

Also, witness the origin of Batwoman in the shocking and tragic story "Go," in which young Kate Kane and her family are kidnapped by terrorists, and Kate's life - and the lives of her family - will never be the same!

Sometimes a series happens that you hear a lot of good press about but, for one reason or another, never read until later.  This is such a series.

Greg Rucka is at the top of his game with this book.  He is one of the best at writing street level characters.  As Rucka reveals Kate's background, it is believable.  Her training in the military and the support of her father helps to give us a rich, fully realized character.  And the anatagonist of the series, Alice, is a perfect foil for Batwoman.  Rucka obviously put a lot of thought and planning in the development of this series.

Batwoman is a showcase of J. H. Williams' innovative layouts and panel designs.  The bat motif is in the design of many pages.  The non-standard panel designs help to pull the reader into the story.  It is almost like the character Alice has influenced the thoughts of the artist.  If Williams ever goes to Marvel Comics, I would hope they would bring back the old "Master of Kung Fu" series.  His layouts are similar to the work done by Paul Gulacy and Gene Day on that series.

The Rucka/Williams team was perfect on this title.  I hope that Williams is able to continue the quality in the new series.  Rucka has left for Marvel so he will not be scripting it.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Action #2 & #3

Writer:  Grant Morrison
Pencillers: Rags Morales & Brent Anderson
Inkers:  Rick Bryant & Brent Anderson

Like the first issue, Morrison keeps the action coming.  Luthor captured Superman at the end of the first issue and spends half of this issue torturing him.  In addition to the Superman vs. Lex Luthor and the U.S. Army, we get to see Lois Lane in action.  And, in orbit around Earth, is an alien ship that is communicating with Lex.

This continues to be one of the top comics being published today.  The art by Morales, Anderson, and Bryant is fantastic.

Morrison continues to reveal more about the early life of Superman as the action is going on.  

Highly recommended.  This should be on everyone's pull list.

Writer:  Grant Morrison
Pencillers:  Rags Morales & Gene Ha
Inkers:  Rick Bryant & Gene Ha

The story takes a slightly unorthodox approach with the short story at the front of the book and the main story in the back.

Gene Ha does some of his best work on the "World of Krypton" short story.  Innovative designs, non-standard panel layout, and fantastic art combine to make this a beautiful story to look at.  Morrison's story fills in some of the background of what went on during the final days of Krypton.

The main continues the story from the previous issues.  Clark is trying to bring down Glen Glenmorgan down while the media is opening an all out assault to ruin Superman.  Meanwhile, Lex Luthor finally comes face to face with the alien he has been in contact with.

Morrison and the various artists continue to make this a must read title.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Uncanny X-Men #1

Uncanny X-Men #1

Writer:  Kieron Gillen
Penciler:  Carlos Pacheo
Inker:  Cam Smith

The first X-Men story I read was back in the days before the New X-Men were introduce by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum.  Being a big Cockrum fan from his days on Legion of Super-Heroes I followed him to X-Men.  It quickly became a favorite of mine.  Under Claremont and Byrne, Uncanny X-Men was at the top of my reading stack.  Over the years it fell to being a title I would pick up but never got around to reading.  So with the announcement that the books were re-starting with issue number ones, I thought it would be a good time to try the titles again.

I found that the art by Pacheo and Smith was excellent.  Combined with the coloring of Frank D'Armata, the special effects pop off the page.  At times the backgrounds would be non-existent but D'Armata's coloring fills the gap.  They are definitely a team that needs to be on a flagship book.  I hope this team will stay together and not have to have fill-ins.

Gillen has been receiving critical acclaim for his work on "Journey into Mystery".  This is my first time to read one of his stories.  He has the unenviable task of balancing introducing new readers and updating existing readers to the cast of this title.  The story was a little weak and unmemorable until the battle scene.  What happens to Emma Frost in the battle will be interesting to follow up.

While not a favorite, it did enough to keep me interested for a few more issues.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Action #1, Superman #1

Superman #1

Script & Breakdowns:  George Perez
Pencils & Inks:  Jesus Merino

The best way to describe this is it was a mixed bag.  As always, the layouts by George Perez are excellent.  He puts more panels on a page than any other artist.  Jesus Merino manages to add little touches that allow his art to show through the layouts.  The most notable example are the scenes with Superman’s cape.  The cape looks like the way Moreno drew it in the past.  Other panels are very much like Perez.  Perez’s script leaves much to be desired.  The plot bounces all over the place without much focus.  Keith Giffin and Dan Jurgens are already announced to take over the series.  I think they will be better suited for Superman.  

Action #1

Writer:  Grant Morrison
Penciller:  Rags Morales
Inker:  Rick Bryant

I cannot remember any other Grant Morrison title that is this fast paced.  Action is an appropriate title for this comic.  Something that Morrison has done in this issue is he fills the story with characterization while the action is going on.  It is definitely one of the most accessible Morrison stories ever.  He continues to be one of my favorite writers.  Action #1 is a look back at the early days of Superman.  He is still working on his costume, establishing a life in Metropolis, and meeting some of his first enemies.  The art by Rags Morales compliments the script.  Morales adds little touches to help flesh out the characters.  Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Teen Titans #1, Demon Knights #1, and Stormwatch #1

Teen Titans #1

Writer:  Scott Lobdell
Penciller:  Brett Booth
Inker:  Norm Rapmund

The media is showcasing how the new teen heroes are out of control.  Many times they are causing massive damage due to their inexperience.  Now various super teens are starting to disappear.  Tim Drake decides it is up to him to gather, train, and protect the next generation of heroes.  Scott Lobdell has crafted an interesting beginning to the Titans series.  In this issue we find out that the group who is behind the creation of Superboy is the group that is doing the kidnapping.  The ending of the first issue of Superboy ties in to the end of this issue.  Lobdell is off to a good start with this one.  The art by Brett Booth is not my favorite but is good enough to get by.  I will continue following this series.

Demon Knights #1

Writer:  Paul Cornell
Penciller:  Diogenes Neves
Inker:  Oclair Albert 

I will confess up front that Paul Cornell is one of my favorite writers.  I enjoyed his work on Doctor Who, Captain Britain, and his recent stint on Action Comics.  Demon Knights takes place following the fall of Camelot.  Cornell pulls together Madame Xanadu, The Demon, The Shining Knight, and others to form a team to battle Morgan le Fay and Mordru.  This issue sets the stage for things to come.  I liked the way he is starting the series.  The art by Diogennes Nieves is amazing.  Nieves looked good on the previous run of Green Arrow but he has stepped it up with this title.  Nieves classic art influences combined with super hero storytelling is perfect for this series.  Join up now for this interesting series.

Stormwatch #1

Writer:  Paul Cornell
Artist:  Miguel Sepulveda

I have heard complaints about the art of Sepulvida on this title.  Personally, I liked the art.  I have no problem with his work.  The complaint I heard about the writing is that Paul Cornell put too many characters in the first issue.  This is the opposite of the complaints critics have of Justice League #1.  Cornell filled this issue with at least cameos of a large cast and more ideas than many titles have in their first arc.  So even though you might not get attached to the characters in this issue, the ideas are worth the price of admission.  I have a feeling that this series will only get better as Cornell takes the time to focus on the various characters.

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Format-The New Justice Leagues

I am finding out that I read more than I can review.  So, at least for now, I will be posting short reviews in an attempt to keep up with my reading.

Justice League #1 and #2

Writer:  Geoff Johns
Penciller:  Jim Lee
Inker:  Scott Williams

I am one of the readers who loves Jim Lee’s art.  Some of the pages in these 2 issues are stunning.  Any book with Jim Lee pencils inked by Scott Williams Is a well-drawn book in my opinion.  Various reviewers have criticized Geoff Johns for not bringing the team together in the first issue.  I am enjoying seeing how they go from individuals to the Justice League we know and love.  The continued high sales show that I am not the only reader who is enjoying this title.  Highly recommended.

 Justice League International #1 and #2

Writer:  Dan Jurgens
Penciller:  Aaron Lopresti
Inker:  Matt Ryan

Aaron Lopresti is doing a fantastic job drawing this title in the classic comic book style.  Jurgens wastes no time in bringing the team together although there will be growing pains involved.  The plot comes off as a combination of a silver age story with a post-Giffin Justice League.  It might not appeal to modern readers.  I thought Jurgens’ work on the Booster Gold series was much better.  Still, it is a fun story that I will continue to follow.

Justice League Dark #1 and #2

Writer:  Peter Milligan
Artist:  Mikel Janin

The high points of this series is the combination of characters and the art of Mikel Janin.  Janin’s art is very good with some spectacular imagery.  The teaming of Deadman, Madame Xanadu, Zatanna, John Constantine, Shade the Changing Man, and Dove should make for an interesting team.  Unfortunately Peter Milligan’s story is somewhat lacking.  He is attempting to write like Alan Moore but is missing out on the plotting side.  Hopefully the story will come together in future issues.  I do like his characterization of Shade.  The theme of “broken people” is evident through the first 2 issues.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Aquaman #2

Writer:  Geoff Johns

Penciller:  Ivan Reis

Inker:  Joe Prado

DC Comics

Cover Date:  December 2011

Aquaman #1 was one of my favorites of the DC relaunch.  #2 did nothing to disappoint me.

Johns continues the story by showing us some scenes from Aquaman's youth.  Mera wants to try the different things that she sees in the pictures.  

The action ramps up this issue with the assault on the surface by the denizens of "The Trench" (seen on the cover).  The action is all out as Mera and Aquaman show their powers as they are attacked by the masses of "The Trench" creatures.  It appears that the creatures are searching for food.  Unfortunately for the inhabitants of this small sea side community, humans are on their menu.  The next issue blurb says that we will learn the secrets of the Trench.  I can't wait to see what Johns has planned.

Reis and Prado turn in another great art job.  Hopefully they can keep pace with the monthly publication level.  

Aquaman continues to be high on my reading list.

Aquaman #1

Writer:  Geoff Johns

Penciller:  Ivan Reis

Inker:  Joe Prado

DC Comics

Cover Date:  November 2011

In the new DC Universe, Aquaman and Mera decide to move into a lighthouse and live on the surface.  It is the lighthouse that he grew up in.  Meanwhile, under the surface of the ocean, a menace rises from "The Trench" and starts to invade the surface.

Johns stresses how powerful Aquaman can be.  His actions show that he can be very intimidating.  Many of the people he interacts with comment on what a joke he is based on "Saturday Night Live" skits.  I could have done with a little less of this and hope that it is played down in future stories.  Johns has crafted a solid beginning for the new adventures of Aquaman.

Reis and Prado make a great team.  Some times I thought the art looked like the early Marvel work of John Byrne.  At others, I was reminded of the work of Neal Adams.  Then it hit me.  The art in this issue reminds me of a classic "Hulk Annual" that featured John Byrne inked by Bob Layton.  This is high praise.

The combination of Johns' script with the great art of Reis and Prado made this one of my favorite books in the New DC.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Drax the Destroyer #1

Writer:  Keith Giffin

Artist:  Mitch Breitweiser

Marvel Comics

Cover Date:  November 2005

Drax the Destroyer was a character that I first encountered in the original Captain Marvel series.  He was brought in during the early days of Jim Starlin's epic battle between Captain Marvel and Thanos.

Drax was created as an unstoppable killing machine designed to take out Thanos.  In this issue, the first chapter of the Annihilation crossover, Drax is on board a prison ship.  Other inmates on the ship include Lunatik, Super Skrull and the Blood Brothers.  The ship crashes on Earth and the inmates escape.

The other storyline involves a young boy and girl who go to investigate the crash site.  The two stories meet at the end of this issue.

Giffin's story is light weight entertainment.  At this point, we are introduced to the various players but are not sure what this has to do with "Annihilation".  Every time I read a Marvel cosmic story, I end up comparing it to Starlin's magnum opus.  This story does not have the depth of the old classic.  Giffin does okay but it is very action oriented with little characterization.

The art by Mitch Breitweiser is another story.  Mitch does a great job with the kids.  The scenery is fantastic whether it is in space or on Earth.  I thought the     
inmates' faces were non-descript.  Overall I liked the artwork.  He does a solid, all around good job with the book.

I will be reading more issues in "Annihilation".  Keep an eye out for more work by this artist.

Friday, November 11, 2011

All Star Western #1

To read my review of All Star Western #1 over at my Pulp Times site, click here.

Reviews of comics that have more of a pulp theme will appear at Pulp Times.

Avengers Origins: Vision #1

Writers:  Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel

Artist:  Stephane Perger

Cover Date:  January 2012

The Avengers was one of the first series I read regularly.  At the time, it was written by Steve Englehart with various artists.  It did not take me long to start buying the various Marvel reprint titles and get up to date on the Stan Lee and Roy Thomas   runs on this title.  Through it's ups and downs with creative team changes, it remained one of my personal favorites.  When Brian Michael Bendis did his first arc "Avengers Disassembled", I knew it was going a direction that did not appeal to me.  I tried to keep reading it but the "Bendis approach" was not the style I liked on Avengers.  The only Avengers title I am currently reading is Christos Gage's "Avengers Academy".  It is more in the spirit of the old school series.  And that leads me to "Avengers Origins".

Higgins and Siegel have written a slightly different take on the origin of the Vision.  Roy Thomas did it originally.  This version stays true to the spirit of the original story.  This is what I would consider to be part of my Avengers.  If you are a fan of the old Avengers stories and are looking for something different from the current Bendis series, I strongly recommend picking this up.  

The art by Perger is in the painted style of Alex Ross.  Perger does an excellent job illustrating the story.  I will be looking for more of his work in the future.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Daytripper #3

Story & Art:  Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

Vertigo Comics

Cover Date:  April 2010

Daytripper is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  The first issue was a classic while the second issue had a slight drop in quality.  This was due to the ending of the first issue.

Issue three is another slice of life story.  This time it features the breakup of Bras and his long time girlfriend.  Moon and Ba do a realistic job of showing the effects of a breakup.  It would be easy to believe that this is happening to a real person.

Without seeming rushed, the latter part of the story shows how Bras is beginning to pull out of his depression.  And once again they pull a surprise ending off.  At this point I have no clue where this story is going.  All I know is that I am definitely in for the duration.  There is no way that I am going to miss the rest of this fascinating story.

5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Daytripper #2

Story & Art:  Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

Vertigo Comics

Cover Date:  March 2010

Early on in issue 1 of Daytripper, Bras (the main character) is talking with his best friend and mentions the trip they took to Salvador when they were 21.  This month we see the story of that trip.

The story focuses on a woman that Bras meets at a local festival.  It contains a few surreal moments that is appropriate for a story about falling in love in a strange land.  At times it almost seems like it could be a dream.  Vacation romances can take on a dream like quality.  Based on the end of this story, I did not think we would see the woman again.

The storytelling continues to be outstanding.  The art does a fantastic job of sequential storytelling.  

There is no denying that this series has the potential to be a classic comic.  I think the subject matter will appeal to more than the regular comic readers.  

This issue did not rank quite as high as the first one.  The ending of the first story pushed it over the top.

4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Daytripper #1

Story & Art:  Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

Vertigo Comics

Cover Date:  February 2010

In short, this is a story about a day in the life of a man who writes obituaries for a living while he works on a novel.  This particular day is right after his father dies.

Bras de Oliva Domingos is the son of a famous Brazilian writer.  As he reflects on his father's life, it gives him the opportunity to think about his own life.  The pacing of the story is very relaxed but does not drag.  The life of Bras is not action packed but it keeps the reader hooked.  

The art is a perfect fit for the story.  Whichever brother does the interiors (I think it was Moon) knows how to tell a story.  One of my recent complaints is the lack of sequential storytelling in comics.  This is a great example of how it should be done.  The positioning of the characters in a panel lead the reader to the next panel in the story.  Sometimes it is as subtle as the direction the main character's eyes are looking.  Other times it is the positioning of items in the panel direct the reader.  

Somehow, this slow paced story does not seem slow.  The brothers who created this book also added one of the best final pages I have seen in a comic book.  I have no clue where they will go after this page.

5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hulk # 30

Writer:  Jeff Parker

Penciler:  Ed McGuinness

Inker:  Dexter Vines

Cover Date:  April 2011 

I am a big fan of the Jeff Parker and Gabe Hardman Hulk.  

This issue features the return of Ed McGuinness as the fill-in artist on the title that he launched with Jeff Loeb.  Ed still knocks it out of the park when it comes to action scenes filled with superhuman characters.  Unfortunately he struggles in this issue with drawing the normal people.  Knowing his strengths, Jeff Parker wrote a story that is mostly super powered high octane action.  

I understand why Parker wanted to do a chance of pace issue after the dramatic "Scorched Earth" storyline.  I read this book for the dramatic stories not for a light humor based tale like the one in this issue.  It is an okay story but it is not what I was looking for.  It was fun seeing all of the old Hulk villains (and Woodgod even makes an appearance) but I would recommend skipping this one and waiting for issue 31.  If you are looking for a humorous story, pick this one up.

The backup story has excellent art by Tim Seeley. The A-Bomb story was average but I would like to see more of Seeley's art in the future.  Some of his work reminds me of the art of John Byrne.  This is similar to what Paul Pellettier is doing on Incredible Hulks.

3 out of 5 stars. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Warlord of Mars #1

Writer:  Arvid Nelson

Artist:  Stephen Sadowski

Dynamite Entertainment

Cover Date:  October 2010

Arvid Nelson's version of the John Carter of Mars story starts before Edgar Rice Burroughs first book.  It is risky adding to a classic story but Nelson does an amazing job of adding to the story.  If I did not know better I would think this was a short story written by Burroughs.  Burroughs spirit lives on in this title.

Nelson does a perfect job of capturing John Carter's personality.  This issue explains why the Apaches were attacking him in the original story.  The first half of the issue sets up John's back story.  The second half shows the story of his soon to be best friend, Tars Tarkas.

Stephen Sadowski is a good artist to have on this title.  He does a good job with the John Carter part of the book but the art really improves to the next level with the Martian sequences.  Some panels reminded me of the work of the great Gil Kane.  Without copying his panels, Sadowski has definitely been inspired by Kane's work in the figures.  The strongest Kane influence I saw was some of the panels with the white apes.  I can't wait to see Sadowski drawing the future issues of this title.

Highly recommended.

4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Red Sonja #0

Writers:  Michael Avon Oeming with Mike Carey

Art:  Mel Rubi

Dynamite Entertainment

Cover Date:  April 2005

This issue is a quick read but it is a good introduction to the concept behind Red Sonja.  Oeming and Carey show what happens when she enters a town.  The story is told from the point of view of one of the townspeople.

She is referred to as "the Red Storm".  This is a good description of her.  Red Sonja is portrayed almost like a force of nature that sweeps through the town.  The men who try to rob her at the bar don't know what hit them.  It does not take her very long to dispatch them from the land of the living.

The art by Rubi fits the tone of the book.  He does a equally good job of drawing the various people of the town, Red Sonja, and the action scenes that are important for a sword and sorcery book.  Most of the time the action in the panel leads the eye to the next panel.  Rubi is skillful at choreographing the fight scenes.

A nice touch is the design of the panels.  The style looks like ancient writing and the panels appear to be parchment.  I would assume this was designed by Richard Starkings.  Little things like this add to the story.

Because of the nature of the story it was not too heavy on characterization.  What we do see seems natural for the people in the story.

Recommended.  It won't be your favorite book of the week but it is a good introduction to the character.

3 out of 5 stars. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hulk #29

Writer:  Jeff Parker
Artist:  Gabriel Hardman

After defeating the Intelligensia, Bruce Banner discovers that M.O.D.O.K. set off the "Scorched Earth" procedure.  Rick (A-Bomb) Jones ended up on Monster Island and fell under M.O.D.O.K.'s control.  Thunderbolt (Red Hulk) Ross went to rescue Rick and stop the villain's plan.  He freed Rick but reverted back to being Ross.  This issue begins with the other monsters on the island attacking them.

Hulk #29 shows how Bruce (Hulk) Banner comes to the rescue.  The three heroes take on the monsters, fight their way across the island, and end the threat of M.O.D.O.K.  Or do they?  A surprise happens at the end that puts things in a different light.

Parker has crafted another great Hulk story.  Banner's confession to Ross is great.  "Scorched Earth" was the perfect transition from the Jeff Loeb era to Parker's.  He has captured the personalities of all of the characters.  After this storyline, Parker has said that he will be building a new rogues gallery for the Red Hulk.  If the stories are as good as this one, we are in for a classic series.

I had the pleasure of meeting Gabe Hardman last year at the Super Show in Allentown (thanks Comic Geek Speak crew).  He was fantastic.  His sketches are very good.  If you get the chance to see him this convention season, do it.  But if you want a sketch put in your request early.  His mix of modern art with an almost pulp like feel is an ideal mix for this title.

The team was firing on all cylinders this month.  Highly recommended.  One of the best books on the market today.

4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Heroes for Hire #3

Writers:  Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Penciler:  Brad Walker
Inker:  Andrew Hennessy

This continues the storyline that began in issue one.  Misty (Control) Knight hires various heroes to complete part of a mission.  She is the only one who knows the overall nature of the mission.  Paladin, a long time favorite of mine since he first appeared in Daredevil, is on retainer.  When Misty calls him, he tells her he is on another case.  We see that he is spying on numerous friends of Misty's.  This leads to a showdown with Iron Fist.

Adnett and Lanning have written a story that is technically good but does not really advance the main plotline.  At this point I was expecting to learn more about the story.  As a reader, you could have skipped issues two and three and not missed a beat.  Hopefully issue four does more to advance the story.

Walker's art is inconsistent.  Some of the pages look okay, others are very weak.  The inking of Andrew Hennessey does a good job of smoothing out some of the problems with the art.  

The most dramatic page was the one where Moon Knight opens the door, letting loose something that has been captured and brought to the city.  I won't reveal what it is.  Let's just say that the smuggling ring is bigger than it seemed at first.

Skip this issue and see if it picks up next time.

2 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Flash #9

Writer:  Geoff Johns
Artist:  Francis Manapul

"The Road to Flashpoint Part One"

Geoff Johns return to Flash has been a successful one.  He re-established Barry as a police scientist, did a multi-part story featuring the future Rogues Gallery, and followed it up with a couple of one part stories.  I guess the one parters are over.  We see "Part One" in the title and regular artist Francis Manapul has returned.  With this issue, I would guess that Johns is more focused on the big Flash event that is coming-Flashpoint.

A mysterious black and white garbed motorcyclist appears in Central City.  His bike has the tell tale speed force lines trailing behind it.  He races through the issue as he searches for Barry Allen.

Meanwhile, we learn that Barry is called in to work on a case.  The rest of the family is not happy that Barry is missing their picnic.  Johns does a good job with Barry struggling with family events since the murder of his mother.  Iris tells him that the rest went ahead with the family events when they thought he was dead.  The reactions of both characters are realistic.  Johns has always had a good handle on the Flash family.  He has not lost his touch.

Manapul's art continues to capture the high energy look that is needed for this book.  He is improving as the series progresses.  The characters are not just generic drawings.  Each person has a different look and body type.  Many artists do not vary the looks like this.  Manapul's approach is patterned after a more realistic style of character design.  I like being able to identify the characters with out being told who they are.

After seeing Manapul draw Elongated Kid, I would love to see him do more with that character.

Overall this was a good start to "The Road to Flashpoint".  Highly recommended.  I think this would be a good jumping on point for a new reader.

4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Avengers Academy #8

Writer:  Christos Gage
Penciler:  Mike McKone
Inker:  Rebecca Buchman

I remember the first Avengers book I bought.  It was a Steve Englehart story in the original series.  At that time there was only 1 Avengers title.  Was it a classic story?  No.  It was the issue before Steve's epic Avengers/Defenders War.  But to me it was amazing.  I loved the war Steve was able to make the characters real.  It seemed like they were real people who just happened to have amazing adventures.  I followed the Avengers ever since that issue until Bendis took the reins.  I kept reading during the Avengers Disassembled but this was not my Avengers.  I have tried reading Bendis' Avengers off and on but it lacked something.  What I discovered with this title is that Christos Gage knows how to write "my Avengers".

This issue is a perfect example.  I love the way he shows the conflict between the teachers and the students.  The students are torn between what they want to do and what the teachers are telling them.  They have conflict within the ranks but support each other when push comes to shove.

In this issue, the students find a video, on the internet, of Tigra's beatdown at the hands of the Hood.  They want to know what Tigra did to him when she caught the Hood.  Tigra says that she sent him to prison.  That is what heroes do.  If the heroes start taking revenge through violence, they are no better than the villains.

The students decide to take revenge for her.  They expect this will make her happy and send a message to the villains at the same time.  Tigra has the opposite reaction.  The ending is very believable.  This is a comic that I can't wait for the next issue.

Highly recommended.

4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Amazing Spider-Man #652

Writer:  Dan Slott
Artist:  Stefano Caselli
Publisher:  Marvel

The relaunch of Spider-Man has been solid.  After the low point of the series back in "One More Day", I quit reading the series.  Around the time of "American Son" I returned to the series.  "American Son" was a very good return to the type of story I expect in this book.  Now Slott has been installed as the regular writer.

This issue features the start of a new story called "Revenge of the Spider-Slayer".  The brains behind this scheme is Alistair Smythe, the son of the original Spider-SlayerHe blames J. Jonah Jameson for the death of his father.  His plan for revenge consists of killing JJJ's son, wife, and father.  JJJ will be helpless as he watches his loved ones die.  He recruits others who hate JJJ to help him.  This includes Mac Gargan, the original Scorpion.

Slott shows that he knows how to handle Spider-Man's cast in the opening sequence.  The combination of drama, humor, and patented bad Parker luck makes this feel like old home week on this title.  I like that Slott is showing that Peter is a brain with his new job.  Too often, writers forget that Peter is a genius. 

Smythe's invasion of the base is well planned.  Peter is forced into action as Spider-Man when Smythe's plan is put into motion.  The twist at the end is a good finish to this part of the story.

Stefano Caselli's art is a mixture of a manga influenced style with occasional Mike McKone type faces.  One of my favorite pages in this issue is the shot of the Smythe's insect army in silhouette as they approach Andru Air Force Base.  The images show that the characters are not quite human.  The design of the Fly shows a bizarre human/insect hybird.  It is perfect for this character.

If this is the new status quo for Spider-Man, I will continue to follow it.


3 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Morning Glories #1

Writer:  Nick Spenser
Art:  Joe Eisma
Publisher:  Image Comics

"For a better future" seems to be the theme of this first issue.  It appears in various spots throughout the story.  The basic story is that teenagers from various walks of life are coming together at a special school.  For the most part, they are excited by this opportunity.  What they don't see is that violent happenings are going on behind the scenes.  The final page revelation is shocking.  

Nick Spenser does a solid job of setting the stage for the rest of the series.  The various characters are shown to have different personalities.  The history of each character is established while not revealing all of the mysteries.  Spenser is rapidly proving himself to be one of the best of the new writers in the industry.  He sets up an interesting story without giving too much away.  The mysteries in this issue (all of the students were born on the same day?) and the shock ending make you anxious for the next issue.  This is the way to start a new series.

The art by Joe Eisma shows solid storytelling skills with a touch of manga influence.  The panel layouts help keep the story moving.  He showcases a good knowledge of how to tell a story.  

The team of Spencer and Eisma have created a great start for this series.

Highly recommended.

4 out of 5 stars.