Saturday, December 13, 2014

Black Bat Omnibus

Writer:  Brian Buccellato

Artist: Ronan Cliquet

Source:  Net Galley

First Publication:  November 2014

Publisher:  Dynamite

Collects issues 1-12

Graphic Novel Challenge #63

From Amazon:  The classic pulp vigilante, reimagined for a new generation! Tony Quinn is a brash defense attorney to the mob who compromises his ethics for financial gain. When he refuses to cross the line and commit murder, he is tortured and blinded by his gangster employers. When a fortuitous meeting with a covert agency gives him a chance to make amends, Quinn transforms into the Black Bat and embarks on a redemptive quest to right the wrongs of his past. Collects the complete story from issues #1-12 of the Black Bat comic book maxi-series.

As in many cases, it is easy to see where the inspiration for many of the modern super-heroes can be found in the pulps.  I imagine that some of the origin of Daredevil came from this character.  A brash attorney becomes a blind hero.  Daredevil took a different path after starting with some of the same concepts.  Daredevil never became a lawyer for the mob for one thing.  And the Black Bat was given a way to compensate for his blindness by a shadowy organization.
Brian Buccellato impressed me with his work on the New 52 reboot of “The Flash”.  His writing, in conjunction with Francis Manapul, helped to make that title a success.  He continues to turn in good work with “Black Bat”.  I have enjoyed many of the Dynamite series based on the pulp characters.  I am adding this to the Dynamite list that includes “The Shadow”, “Doc Savage”, “ Green Hornet” and others.

This is a great collection to pick up since it contains all of the issues of the maxi-series.  If you are a fan of pulp characters or just good storytelling, definitely buy this one.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Teen Titans Earth One

Writer:  Jeff Lemire

Artists:  Rachel Dodson Terry Dodson

Source:  Net Galley

First Publication:  November 2014

Publisher:  DC Comics

Graphic Novel Challenge #62

From Amazon:  

A new original graphic novel in DC's popular "Earth One" series, TEEN TITANS: EARTH ONE follows in the tradition of SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE and BATMAN: EARTH ONE, both of which were #1 New York Times bestsellers. 

The Teen Titans never felt like normal kids... but they had no idea how right they were. Their seemingly idyllic Oregon upbringing hides a secret -- one that will bring killers, shamans, and extraterrestrials down on their heads, and force them into an alliance that could shake the planet to its foundations! 

The Creators:

Jeff Lemire caught my attention with his work on various DC titles.  One of the first that I remember was his stint on SUPERBOY before the start of the New52.  One of the most interesting titles he has written was the FRANKENSTEIN AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E.  Definitely worth following.

The Dodsons have worked on numerous titles for various companies.  Their smooth lines show some of the same rendering styles used by Adam Hughes.

The Story:

I had mixed feelings about this one.  On one hand I could see where this would appeal to younger fans.  The storytelling is solid but not up to the quality  I have come to expect from Lemire.  It did not have the innovative ideas of his other work.  A younger fan who is not as familiar with Lemire or the Titans would enjoy this one.  For me, I will stick with the stories written by Marv Wolfman and Geoff Johns.  Both did Titans stories more to my liking.

The high point of the story was the art.  The Dodsons consistently turn out good work but I thought this was some of their best.  

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Twelve

Writer:  J. Michael Straczynski

Artist:  Chris Weston

Source:  Comixology

First Publication:  Volume 1-February 2012, Volume 2-October 2012

Collects issues 1-12

Graphic Novel Challenge #s 60-61

This two volume story showcases the perfect marriage of storytelling and art.  In the Marvel universe, an excavation project uncovers a group of 12 heroes in suspended animation under a German building.  It turns out that they were captured by the Germans at the end of World War II.  

The creative team shows how the heroes try to adapt to the modern world.  It is not what they thought it would be.  A murder occurs that unveils a mystery that drives the story. What secrets are the Twelve hiding?  Are they as “good” as they appear to be?  Is one of the Twelve really a killer?  Will any of them survive to try to fit into the modern world?  This series is one of my favorite reads of the year.  

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Murder Me Dead

Creator:  David Lapham

Publisher:  Image Comics

Source:  NetGalley

First Publication:  August 2014

Graphic Novel Challenge #59

I have been on a streak of reading some excellent collections.  “Murder Me Dead” is another one of them.  David Lapham has made a name for himself working in the crime noir genre.  He uses the traditional tropes of the genre with a loser of a protagonist ( I will not call him a hero), a dangerous woman, a mystery, and violent crimes everywhere.  This would make an excellent mini-series on television.  I will not say anything else about the story because it would ruin it for anyone who has not read it yet.  Highly recommended.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Nightwing Vol. 5: Setting Son

Author:  Kyle Higgins

Artists:  Will Conrad, Cliff Richards, Russell 

Publisher:  DC Comics

Source:  NetGalley

First Publication:  December 2014

Collects:  Nightwing #s 25-29, Annual #1

Graphic Novel Challenge #58

The finale to Nightwing’s solo title was a good one.  I have been a fan of Kyle Higgins tenure on this title.  He has fleshed out the background of Dick Grayson, especially his life at the circus.  The main focus of this collection is a battle with the classic Bat-villain the Mad Hatter.  Nightwing becomes involved with trying to help a victim of the Hatter who suffers from multiple personalities.  A side effect of her mistreatment at the Hatter’s hands is that she is able to imitate any fighting style once she sees it.  Higgins uses it to show the emotional, mental, and physical struggles of this battle.  

Also included is a Nightwing Annual that shows Dick’s last day in Gotham as he leaves Babs Gordon behind. An epilog to the series is the final issue in the collection.  It is written by the team who are writing Grayson.  They use it to set the stage for that Dick Grayson/spy comic.  

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Author/Artist:  Gabriel Hardman

Publisher:  Image Comics

Source:  NetGalley

First Publication:  November 2014

Collects  Kinski #s 1-6

Graphic Novel Challenge #57

The age old story of a man and his dog.  The only problem is how the man got the dog.  Most people would buy a puppy or adopt from a shelter.  Not in this case.  A salesman decides to "rescue" a dog from a neglectful family.  The "rescue" ends up turning into a crime drama.  Hardman does a good job of developing the character of the salesman.  Fans of character driven drama will love this collection.

Highly recommended.

I remember meeting Gabe Hardman at one of Comic Geek Speak's Super Shows.  I enjoyed his work for Marvel at that time on Hulk.  He turned out to be as nice in person as he is talented at the art table.  Since then, I have followed his career.  If you ever get the chance to see him and his amazing penciled pages at a convention, take the time to wait in line.  It is worth it.

Monday, November 3, 2014

E.G.O.s Volume 1

Author:  Stuart Moore

Artist:  Gus Storms

Publisher:  Image 

Source:  NetGalley

First Publication:  September 2014

Graphic Novel Challenge #56

Stuart Moore has written some titles in the past that I really liked so I thought I would give this one a try.  With DC Comics not currently publishing one of my favorites, the Legion of Super-Heroes, I was in the market for another future based team title.  E.G.O.s hit the mark.  

The basis is different enough, an aging super-hero rebuilds his former team with new heroes, that it did not seem like a simple rehashing of old stories.  The way Moore and Storms put  together this story it is fully fleshed out without slowing down the action.  The future technology, world building, characterization, mystery, and action combine to make one of the best titles of this year.

Highly recommended (especially for other fans of the Legion of Super-Heroes).  Now when are we going to see more of this title?

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Author:  Mark Millar

Artist:  Goran Parlov

Publisher:  Image

Source:  Comixology

Graphic Novel Challenge #55

In many cases, I find Mark Millar seems to favor violence and shock over characterization.  The way he writes “Starlight” shows a change in direction.  Hopefully, Millar continues down this path.  The violence is still evident at times but the characterization takes center stage.  The protagonist is the archetypical science fiction action hero.  He is cut from the same cloth as Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Adam Strange, et al.  In this story he saved the alien world and returned to Earth to retire.  When he returns, no one believes him.  He is thought to be delusional.  Things continue to go downhill until the day when a spaceship appears at his house.  A young man, from the planet he saved in the past, is excited to find the legendary hero.  The alien world has been conquered by another race that is exploiting them.  The boy escaped and wants him to return to lead the revolt.  He decides to go since there is nothing left for him on Earth.  Millar does a masterful job of showing how an elderly, over the hill hero can still lead the good fight to save another world.  I do not want to reveal any more because this is a story that must be experienced.  

Highly recommended.

The Royals: Masters of War

Author:  Rob Williams

Artist:  Simon Coleby

Publisher:  DC

First Publication:  December 2014

Source:  NetGalley

Graphic Novel Challenge #54

Why does royalty only marry those of the royal blood?  In this fascinating alternate history we find out that it is because the royals are super-powered.  When they breed with other super powered people, it creates more people like them.  So the royals of this world agree to never use their powers in battle.  The will let the lesser people fight the wars.  The creators use this background to show how World War II would have gone.  Events go basically like it did in our world, until a British prince breaks the covenant.   He cannot tolerate seeing the British attacked by the Germans and puts an end to it.  This leads to all-out war between the royals.  The combination of storytelling and art is perfect for this one.  

Highly recommended.  It is one of my favorite reads of this year.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Rachel Rising Vol. 1: The Shadow of Death

Author/Artist:  Terry Moore

Publisher:  Abstract Studios

First Publication:  June 2010

Source:  Comixology

Read for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril IX Challenge and Graphic Novel Challenge

Graphic Novel Challenge #53

Over the last few years, I have seen other works by this creator.  He has done “Strangers in Paradise” and “Echo”.  This was the first time I picked up and read one of his stories.  It will not be the last time.  “Rachel Rising” has hooked me.  When a series starts out with the heroine clawing her way out of a grave, you know you are in for a fantastic ride.  At the end of the first volume, we still do not know exactly what is going on but the groundwork has been laid for the series.  The initial storyline is wrapped up.  I cannot wait to see where this goes next.  

If you are looking for a mysterious, spooky story with lots of atmosphere pick this up.  I know I will be continuing on with the rest of the series.

The Ghoul

Author:  Steve Niles

Artist:  Berni Wrightson

Publisher:  IDW

First Publication:  June 2010

Source:  Comixology

Read for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril IX Challenge and Graphic Novel Challenge

Graphic Novel Challenge #52

When I saw that Berni Wrightson was the artist, I picked this one up.  Wrightson was one of the classic horror artists in comics when I was younger.  His work on “Swamp Thing” is legendary.  “The Ghoul” features a Frankenstein like monster as a detective.  He investigates odd crimes that might involve the occult.  His team up with a local detective makes for an entertaining story.  Wrightson has not lost his touch over the years.  The art is amazing.  Steve Niles turned in a solid story that played to Wrightson’s artistic strengths. 


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Author: Arthur Conan Doyle

Adapted by:  John Green

Publisher:  Dover Publications

First Publication:  November 2014

Source:  Netgalley

Read for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril IX Challenge and Graphic Novel Challenge

Graphic Novel Challenge #51

At first glance, the art looks too simplistic.  Then when you look inside, the publishers tell you this is so young readers can color it themselves.  i thought this was a good way of getting younger readers into the story.

The art depicts the way I would expect the characters and scenery to look.

The story, which does not need summarized here, is abridged but you would not realize it if you were not familiar with the original version.  John Green does an excellent job of capturing the heart and feel of the story.  

I would highly recommend this for readers of all ages.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

New Crusaders Vol. 1: Rise of the Heroes

Author:  Ian Flynn

Artist:  Ben Bates, Alitha Martinez

Publisher:  Archie Comics

First Publication:  March 2013

Rating:  8

Source:  Comixology

Graphic Novel Challenge #50

My first exposure to the Red Circle heroes was in the Rich Buckler led revival.  Buckler drew “The Crusaders” while others did “The Fly”, “The Shield” and others.  It was short lived but I liked it.  ”Rise of the Heroes” is basically a follow up to that era.  The heroes settled down and started raising families.  When a threat from the past returns and exacts revenge, the next generation is forced to pick up the torch.

I found this to be a fun return to classic super hero storytelling.  The new crew is going through a growing process that will be fun to follow.

Highly recommended.

Cable and X-Force Vol. 1: Wanted

Author:  Dennis Hopeless

Artist:  Salvador Larroca

Publisher:  Marvel Comics

First Publication:  May 2013

Rating:  6

Source:  Comixology

Graphic Novel Challenge #49

Collectss:  Cable and X-Force #s 1-5

I was impressed with the art from this series.  It hit all the marks that I look for in illustration.  Unfortunately the story brought the rating down.  The author has written other books that impressed me.  I am not sure if it is his handling of these characters or if it is the characters themselves but I just could not connect with the story.  With the amount of books being sold today, I will be skipping future collections so I have time to read others that I enjoy.

Iron Man vol. 5: Rings of the Mandarin

Author:  Kieron Gillen

Artist:  Luke Ross

Publisher:  Marvel Comics

Source:  Comixology

Rating:  8

Graphic Novel Challenge #48

Collects Iron Man #s 23-28

Kieron Gillen brings everything together from his time on the series to make for an epic end piece.  The Mandarin’s rings communicate through a virtual system and have recruited new hosts to wear them.  Iron Man sets a trap for them.  The mystery mainly focuses on who is wearing some of the rings.  Especially the one.  Gillen has written some great Marvel stories, such as his time on “Journey Into Mystery”, and his Iron Man run is one of his best.

All-New Invaders Vol. 1: Gods and Soldiers

Author:  James Robinson

Artist:  Steve Pugh

Publisher:  Marvel Comics

First Publication:  July 2014

Rating:  9

Source:  Comixology

Graphic Novel Challenge #47

Collects All-New Invaders #s 1-6

“All-New Invaders” quickly became one of my favorite titles.  The writing of James Robinson was some of his best.  The series has the feel of his classic “The Golden Age” series from DC.  The art perfectly complements the script.  It features a clean cut style that is also similar to Paul Smith’s art from “The Golden Age”.  Among the many stories that captured my interest includes updating the current status of the Jim (the Original Human Torch) Hammond as he tries to fit into small town life, events going on in the Kree empire, and the interaction of the former Invaders in modern time Marvel continuity.  Robinson builds the story with perfectly timed revelations that carry the story through to the end.

I will be anxiously following future chapters of this series.  

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Outlaws of the Marsh Volume 1: Spirits and Bandits

Author:  Wei Dong Chen

Artist:  Xiao Long Liang

Publisher:  JR Comics

Graphic Novel Challenge #46

“Outlaws of the Marsh” is a classic story that makes for an interesting series of graphic novels.  I enjoyed the art style which is more in line with an older art style.  It does a good job of visual telling the story.  The rating is lower due to the dialogue.  I think the problems lies with the way it was translated.  It seems like a literal translation.  Some of my favorite translated comics were the old “Mai the Psychic Girl”, “Area 88” and “The Legend of Kamui”.  My impression of those titles was that the books were translated and rewritten to get a more natural story flow while still using the meaning of the original language.  If this style of translation was used on this book I would have given it a higher rating.

Wonder Woman Volumes 1-4

The New 52 version of Wonder Woman is one of the best written books published today.  I rank it as my favorite version of Wonder Woman.  Brian Azzarello added an element of horror to the series.  Part of this was done by making the gods more like they were in the original mythologies.  They are not necessarily human, are powerful, spiteful, and not afraid to use others as their play things.  Azzarello’s Wonder Woman almost feels like an old Vertigo book.  The only problem I see with the New 52 version is that it is not consistent across the line.  The Wonder Woman in Geoff Johns’ “Justice League” seems like a different character.  But Peter Tomasi wrote her in line with Azzarello’s version.  With Azzarello’s run ending soon, I am sure the next version will be more along the lines of the “Justice League” Wonder Woman.  I will miss this series.

The only thing I did not care for was the choice of art direction.  The minimalistic art does not fit the lush storytelling.  This is a series that would have been better with a more realistic artist.  The horror and supernatural elements would have carried more weight.

Based on my new rating system, all of the collections get a 7 of 10 rating.  The storytelling gets high ratings while the art pulls it down.  Whether or not you agree with me about the art, these collections are must buys.  “Wonder Woman” continues to be one of the most intriguing, suspense books on the shelves and be fondly remembered as a great series.

Author:  Brian Azzarello

Artists:  Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins

Publisher:  DC Comics

Graphic Novel Challenge #s 42-45

Wonder Woman Volume 1:  Blood 

Rating 7

Wonder Woman Volume 2:  Guts 

Rating 7

Wonder Woman Volume 3:  Iron 

Rating 7

Wonder Woman Volume 4:  War 

Rating 7

Invincible Volumes 15-19

Author:  Robert Kirkman

Artists:  Ryan Ottley,Cliff Rathburn, John Rauch, Cory Walker

Publisher:  Image Comics

Source:  Comixology

Graphic Novel Challenge #s 37-41

Invincible Vol. 15:  Get Smart

Rating 8.5

“Invincible” is a great series that gets overlooked because of the success of Kirkman’s other title that came out around the same time.  Something called “The Walking Dead”.  Is one better than the other?  If you are looking for a serious book and are not a fan of superheroes, then “The Walking Dead” is for you.  If, like me, you enjoy both kinds of books, “Invincible” is one of the better ones being published today.  This is a series that needs to be read in order.  If you want to try it I recommend reading the first two collections to get a feel for the series.  But definitely read them in order.  Kirkman spends a lot of time building the series up from the foundation of the first stories.

Mark (Invincible) Grayson starts to address the age old superhero question.  Should superheroes fight crime or should they work on solving the big problems (such as droughts, food shortages, etc.).  In typical Kirkman fashion he makes a convincing argument, the hero starts to follow a plan, and then everything goes wrong.  Kirkman is a master of giving you a false sense of security right before it all hits the fan.

The art is my least favorite thing about “Invincible”.  While the two artists do quality work, I personally prefer a more realistic style.  Although a realistic style would make the violence less startling, a cartoony style catches you off guard when Kirkman puts in a scene where you see what would really happen when someone with superpowers punches someone.  This is not for the faint of heart.

Overall it is a very rewarding comic that I hope continues for a long time.  

Highly recommended.

Invincible Vol. 16:  Family Ties

Rating 8.5

Shocking twists, violent battle scenes and great characterization fill this collection.  Once again, I did not see where the plot was going but once Kirkman revealed it it made sense.

Invincible Vol. 17:  What's Happening?

Rating 8

While still a very good collection, I thought this one was not quite as good as the others.  Kirkman pulls back and puts more of the focus on the replacement Invincible.  I think he did it to distract the reader from the next collection…

invincible Vol. 18:  The Death of Everyone

Rating 8.5

The series has been building to this story line for a long time.  Kirkman even went so far as to show up what would happen because of the previous actions of one of the heroes.  But when it actually happens I was still stunned.  I won’t reveal anything else because this is more effective when you don’t know what is coming.

Invincible Vol. 19:  The War at Home

Rating 8.5

Arch villain Levy returns.  As you can imagine, if you have read his previous appearances, this cannot be good for our hero.  Invincible is on the verge of becoming obsessed with taking him down.  Violence ensues.  In classic fashion, Kirkman surprises me again with a relationship change.

The entire “Invincible” series is highly recommended by me.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Complex Vol. 1: Ways of Life

Author:  Michael Malkin

Artist:  Kay

Publisher:  Alterna Comics

First Publication:  May, 2013

Source:  Comixology

Graphic Novel Challenge #36

Summary from Amazon:  Welcome to Towne. From the outside, Towne appears to be just a normal suburban village, however, that is simply a veneer. In Towne there are two factions, a group of scientists working behind the scenes and another that appear to be the guinea pigs for their experiments. What is their ultimate goal and who's behind it all? Welcome to the neighborhood, we hope you enjoy your stay.

Once in a while, you see the cover to a comic you never heard of before.  Sometimes it turns out that the cover is great but the insides…not so much.  This is not such a case.  I did not see any advance reviews of “Ways of Life” but the cover caught my eye.  I bought and read the first issue then was hooked for the rest of the book.  It is best described as a mixture of three different stories from different mediums.  First I thought of the old television series “The Prisoner”.  Next I was reminded of “The X-Files”.  And the other story it seemed inspired by was “The Santaroga Barrier” by Frank Herbert.  Mix it all together and you have a very interesting suspenseful story.  I could not read it fast enough.

The story is one that is best experienced, not described.  The writer has a bright future ahead of him.

The art is decent independent art.  The black and white art helps create the atmosphere without overwhelming the story.

Highly recommended.

Doomsday .1

Author/Artist:  John Byrne

Publisher:  IDW

First Publication:  November, 2013

Source:  Comixology

Graphic Novel Challenge #35

Summary from Amazon:  The Earth may have dodged a bullet on 21/12/2012, but there are worse things in store for our little blue planet. Seven adventurers aboard the International Space Station watch in horror as most of the world is decimated by a monster solar flare. And their only choice is to return to the surface, and face whatever awaits them there!

Over the years, I have enjoyed many different “after the apocalypse” stories.  “The Company of Glory” by Edgar Pangborn was one of the first I read.  It followed up his better known “Davy”.  Pangborn had a laid back almost lyrical/poetical style that was very easy to get into.  “Hiero’s Journey” by Sterling Lanier was another from the same time period.  Lanier included intelligent animals and mutant powers into his world.  Following on that theme, who can forget the original “Planet of the Apes” movies?  In comics, a few of the ones I read included “Killraven” and “Kamandi”.  “Kamandi” was one of the big books Jack Kirby did when he moved to DC.  “Killraven” by Don MacGregor and P. Craig Russell (for most of the series) is one of my all time favorites.  I need to go back and do a re-read soon.  The other series I picked up, but unfortunately was  only able to get one issue of, was Charlton’s “Doomsday +1” that featured the art of a young John Byrne.  Byrne went on to make a name for himself on “X-Men” and many other titles.  Something I have sitting ready to re-read in the near future is Byrne’s “Next Men” series.

“Doomsday .1” is Byrne’s reimagining of the original “Doomsday +1” series.  Each issue tells another short story in the series.  That makes it stand out from other series on the shelves today.  Byrne does a great job of developing the personalities of the various characters.  I do not want to ruin it for anyone who has not read it, but I like the way he reveals what happened on Earth following the disaster.

Many years ago, Byrne starting inking his own work.  While still good, I preferred it when his art  was inked by others (favorites included Terry Austin, Bob McLeod, Joe Rubenstein, and Dick Giordano).  I am not sure if he changed his inking style but in recent years I have grown to like his art more.  The art in this series is very good.

Highly recommended.