Friday, February 17, 2017

One Year in Indiana #0

A minicomic from the random unread comics stack. No idea where I got this one.

Title: One Year in Indiana
Issue: 0
Date: 2006
Publisher: Pungent Basement Comics
Writer: Kurt Dinse
Artist: Kurt Dinse

A death metal vocalist leaves his nomadic life to settle down with a college buddy, sharing a house in Indiana. There he begins to learn the mysterious laws of the land, starting with the one that prohibits the sale of alcohol on Sunday. He figures out he can hold out one night, but when he wakes up to a massive snowstorm, all of a sudden the need for a beer run has reached crisis proportions.

What follows is an epic journey across a snow-covered landscape filled with frozen fratboys, Star Wars references, and a yeti.

The was pretty entertaining, with some clever ideas and good timing on the jokes. The art style worked well with a bit of a 70s underground comix vibe. The good print quality for a minicomic helped too.

A nice self-contained story and a fun start to more adventures in Indiana.

Rating: 7.5/10

Viper Comics Presents: Kid Houdini and the Silver Dollar Misfits

From the unread comics stack: Another Free Comic Book Day book, this one from Viper Comics in 2008.

Title: Viper Comics Presents: Kid Houdini and the Silver Dollar Misfits
Publisher: Viper Comics
Date: April, 2008
Writer: Dwight MacPherson, James M. Burns
Artist: Worth Cowell, Erik Valdez Y Alanis
Colorist: Kevin Conley, Ramon Espinoza
Cover: Jack Lawrence

Two stories here, both involving teams of young characters in detective-style scenarios. In Kid Houdini and the Silver Dollar Misfits, the main character is a young Harry Houdini in the late 1800s, who has run away from home and (not entirely willingly) joined the circus, where he leads a group of young freakshow performers who solve mysteries for the price of a silver dollar.

Most of the story here is setup. It feels like there is a lot of potential, but there isn't enough space in this book to get much character depth, and the action of the story barely gets started before we move on to the second feature. It's still a fairly effective tease of the larger story to come.

The second segment is The Sleepy Truth, which is set in modern times and again features a team of child detectives. In this case they are more in the paranormal investigations line, and they get a call about a legendary lake monster that has a connection to their past. Once again, this is more hints of things to come than any substantive story, but there are some aspects of the story that held my interest.

Both features showed potential, but neither one was spectacularly impressive.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

From the Kiddo's Christmas haul. I just finished reading it with him.

Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
Publisher: Amulet Books (a division of Abrams; series website at wimpykid.com)
Date: 2009
Writer: Jeff Kinney
Artist: Jeff Kinney

This is the second book in Jeff Kinney's bestselling series. Like the rest of the series, it's prose with on average 1-2 accompanying cartoons per page.

The (somewhat loose) focus is on main character Greg Heffley's rocky relationship with his older brother, and the fact that his brother has some serious blackmail material that he's holding over Greg after discovering an embarrassing incident Greg was involved in over the summer.

There were some funny jokes here, and a nicely geeky nod to D&D, which was brilliant, although it ended a bit too abruptly.

A lot of the problems that I had with the first book remains. The characters, Greg included, are not really likeable, and at times Greg is straight-up cruel. While he usually gets plenty of repercussions for his actions, he doesn't seem to have much in the way of regrets, even when he's been engaging in outright bullying. Mostly, his regrets fall into the regret-getting-caught category. It's all done in a light vein, but there were a couple of moments that still had me cringing a bit.

There was a bit that I found particularly troubling, in which the concept of Greg sneaking into the girls locker room is treated as a heroic feat (even if he didn't actually do it). In this book, and in the other two that I read in the series, there is a tendency to dehumanize female characters, especially girls in Greg's school, who tend to be treated as mysterious "others" rather than fully-developed characters. The locker room bit did not help matters.

My son did enjoy the book, and I will credit Kinney's humor, and the format and pacing, with keeping my son interested in reading this, and kindling an interest in him reading the series on his own. He's come back to the first book to reread it frequently, and I expect he will do so with this book too. So in terms of engaging with the target audience, this has been a success. I just wish that, as the target audience's parent, I would have fewer cringe-worthy moments reading these.

Rating: 3.5/10

Friday, February 3, 2017

Savage Dragon #148 (Free Comic Book Day Edition)

In an odd coincidence, I pulled this out of the random stack of unread comics, and it had an odd connection to my previous review.

Title: Savage Dragon
Issue: 148 (Free Comic Book Day Edition)
Date: May, 2009
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Erik Larsen
Artist: Erik Larsen
Colorist: Nikos Koutsis
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski

Savage Dragon's children have been kidnapped, and he teams up with Daredevil (the original golden-age superhero, not the Marvel version) to rescue them. Daredevil, in turn, recruits the Wise Guys, a team of scrappy street kids.

Since this issue was a 2009 Free Comic Book Day offering from Image, there is a four-page "The Story So Far" segment condensing the previous 147 issues down to less than 30 panels. It's a bit helpful, but it has a hard time smoothing out what has clearly been a pretty convoluted journey to the current point in the story.

Once the Daredevil crossover gets going, the story becomes pretty straightforward and easy to follow. Daredevil and the Dragon have a good vibe, working together without needing to fight each other first or have a lot of macho posturing. In fact, it's their easy conversation through the story that really stands out in this issue.

In an interesting coincidence, the Daredevil character presented here, is the same character as the Death-Defying Devil, featured in the comic from Dynamite Entertainment that was my previous review. I don't know how I got these two comics, and had no idea that they shared a character.

Conveniently, this book featured a two-page text feature on the original Daredevil character, who first appeared in Silver Streak Comics from Lev Gleason Publications in 1940. The character may have been the inspiration for Marvel's Daredevil, and is now in the public domain, which explains why he is featured in books by two different companies under slightly different names. This was a nice little bit of comics history.

The story here doesn't resolve all that much. The action is fun, but nothing exceptional. I did really enjoy the dialogue all the way through.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Project Superpowers: The Death-Defying Devil: Free Comic Book Day Special Edition

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Project Superpowers: The Death-Defying Devil: Free Comic Book Day Special Edition
Publisher: Dynamite
Date: 2008
Writer: Alex Ross, Jim Krueger
Artist: Andy Smith
Colorist: Debora Carita
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Cover: Alex Ross

The Project Superpowers team goes over the origins and history of the Claw with some flashbacks to the Devil's battles against the Claw in World War II.

And... That's about it. There is some nice artwork in places, but the Claw's overall look is a bit too goofy for the threat that the Claw is supposed to represent. The whole issue is a big infodump that is not terribly interesting.

The fact that there are 12 pages of story and 18 pages of ads does not exactly help matters. Yes, I realize this is a freebie, but I was still left going "Wait? That's it?" when I got to the end of the actual content with half of the book still to go. Particularly since nothing had actually happened in the story aside from some background getting filled in.

There is obviously a well thought out world behind this story, and a large cast of characters. But the purpose of a promotional book like this is to get me wanting to explore that world and meet those characters. This had the opposite effect on me.

Rating: 2.5/10

Monday, January 23, 2017

Fantasy Theater #18: Lady Spectra & Sparky

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Fantasy Theater: Lady Spectra & Sparky
Issue: 18
Publisher: United Fanzine Organization / Small Press Syndicate
Date: April 2007
Writer: J. Kevin Carrier, Jason Degroot
Artist: Akitaro Sugano, Dan Kellaway, J. Kevin Carrier, Dan Nauenburg, Ronson Butler, Allan Harvey, Dan Taylor
Cover: Will Terrell

The two main features in this half-sized minicomic anthology are both full Lady Spectra & Sparky stories, also available on the Lady Spectra & Sparky webcomic.

The first story features the Siren, a musical villainess who seems to have Spectra and Sparky's number when they first clash. But when her crimes are traced to a pop music star, Sparky has to deal with the fact that her favorite musician could be a secret supervillain. This had some fun plot twists, and the villain had enough powers and tricks to give Lady Spectra and Sparky a run for their money.

The second story went for more of an emotional punch. "Custody Battle" involved two high-powered politicians who conspire to put Lady Spectra on trial for child endangerment for her daughter's role as her superhero sidekick. This had a bit of family drama, a touch of political satire, and a bunch of cameos by past villains and supporting characters.

The webcomic pacing made both Lady Spectra stories feel a bit rushed when read in this format, but they were both fun, complete stories with some twists and turns before satisfying resolutions.

Backup feature was a guest-art gallery featuring fantasy heroine Glorianna.

Rating: 6.5/10

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #14

Another item from the unread comics stack. I seem to recall that I found this on the freebies table at ReaderCon last summer, but I could be mistaken on that.

Title: Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man
Issue: 14
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: January, 2007
Writer: Peter David
Penciller: Scot Eaton
Inker: John Dell
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: VC's Cory Petit
Editor: Axel Alonso, Michael O'Connor

This is in the midst of the Unmasked storyline, and the lead-up to Marvel
s original Civil War. Spider-Man's true identity as Peter Parker has become public knowledge, and Peter is dealing with the fallout from that.

This issue specifically focuses on his efforts to safeguard Midtown High School, now that his connections to the school have become known. Peter enlists the help of the Beast, and gains what effectively amounts to a major new power (in one of those annoying bits of plot that will undoubtedly be forgotten in a few months either with or without some token writeoff to reset things).

While that is going on, a classic Spider-Man villain returns to action, setting up a future confrontation. And Peter Parker also experiences some further repercussions in the form of the publication of a tell-all book by an ex-girlfriend.

This was loaded with excellent visuals, and it had a classic Spider-Man vibe to it. It made good use of a lot of moving parts and kept the story rolling smoothly. I wasn't a fan of some of the the out-of-sequence aspects of the storytelling. They weren't terrible; they just didn't feel entirely justified.

Considering I hadn't read much by Marvel from this time period, this felt reasonably comfortable, even with it being a jump into the middle of a major crossover storyline. But it was still something of a transitional issue, with bigger plot developments saved for forthcoming issues.

Rating: 5.5/10