Sunday, July 31, 2011

Kidzoic Presents: Richie Rich / Kung Fu Panda

I decided to review this one because I'm including it in my 24-Hour Zine, which is about geeky parenting. Kung Fu Panda is one of only a couple of feature-lengeth films that the Kiddo has watched (the other is Kiki's Delivery Service).

Title: Kidzoic Presents: Richie Rich / Kung Fu Panda
Date: 2011
Publisher: Kidzoic / Ape Entertainment
Writer: Jason M. Burns, Quinn Johnson
Artist: Tina Francisco, Dario Mazarra, Chris Houghton
Colorist: Dustin Evans, CV Design, Diego Rodriguez
Letterer: David Hedgecock
Cover: Jack Lawrence, Rolando Mallada

Flip book from the 2011 Free Comic Book Day offerings.

The first Kung Fu Panda story starts out too wordy (even for the character in question!). Tigress has been poisoned by bandits and it's up to Po to travel through a series of dangerous locations (one was actually named "The Canyon You Should Never Cross"!) and defeat a seemingly invulnerable armored pangolin in order to retrieve the antidote. Introductory sequence was weak, but it got better once the action got going. The second Kung Fu Panda story was wordless (much relief after the first story!) and showed the whole team of animal warriors in action. Cute, fun little story.

Flip the book over and you have Richie Rich trying to prevent a (generic) villain from setting off a volcanic eruption that threatens to destroy the beach where Richie Rich and his companions are trying to enjoy their vacation. Fairly simple and straightforward story that lacked some of the flavor that old Richie Rich comics have).

Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fear Itself Sketchbook

A freebie I picked up at a comic shop earlier this year.

Title: Fear Itself Sketchbook
Date: 2011
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: James Viscardi, Hunter Gorinson
Designer: Jeff Suter
Editor: Arune Singh

Introductory freebie for the current Fear Itself storyline. In spite of having some sizable blocks of text, this book really doesn't give away all that much about what the plot of Fear Itself is. We are told that it has to do with the Norse god of fear (was he the guy who kinda functioned as a (bad) male version of Hit Girl during the Siege crossover?).

Anyway, Norse mythology is involved and there will be global chaos. And it will be different from the global chaos that occurred during Civil War, Siege, World War Hulk, or Secret Invasion (or even Acts of Vengeance, although Loki was behind that one, so maybe there's a connection).

The full color center spread is nice, although it appears to mostly show a bunch of superheroes holding a press conference, so it's not exactly the most exciting moment in the series. The dialogue is redacted, so it's really just a whole bunch of capes standing around. They look good, and there are lots of them, but that doesn't change the fact that they're just standing there.

Most of the other sample art is reduced to fit 3-4 full original pages onto a single page of this book. Coupled with it being in sketch form and lacking dialogue, this makes it very difficult to make out much of what is happening in any of it. I did like the full-page sketch of Skadi (formerly Sin, daughter of the Red Skull), and the teasers on the last two pages contain some interesting insights into the greatest fears of some of the superheroes.

This was released back in the spring, and the storyline is now in full swing. I flipped through the most recent issue in a comic shop today (didn't actually buy or read it, so no review), and it did look pretty good. Unfortunately, this freebie does not do that great a job of selling the product.

Rating: 4/10

Friday, July 29, 2011

DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman - The 70s

A new issue (well, half new and half reprint). I picked this one up today at New England Comics in New Bedford.

Title: DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman - The 70s
Date: 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Dennis O'Neil
Penciler: J. Bone, Dick Giordano
Inker: J. Bone, Dick Giordano
Colorist: Kevin Golden, Matthew Petz, Carrie Strachan
Editor: Chynna Clugston Flores, Kwanza Johnson

It says something about the state of DC comics these days when the best Wonder Woman comic I've read in the last few years 1) Is a 1970s retro one-shot, 2) Is 50% reprinted material, and 3) Features Wonder Woman in her non-powered "White Costume" incarnation. Ouch.

First up, Paradise Island has sunk beneath the waves. It's temporarily protected by a domed force field, but a giant blade (no, really!) hangs over the dome, inching closer and threatening to let in the sea and drown the Amazons. Wonder Woman is forced to undergo three ordeals as punishment for the sin of "making yourself less than you are" if she is to save her homeland. This was a really odd story that featured sudden near-surreal plot twists, some really fun fight scenes, a great job on the characterization of Diana (in more of a pacifist mode than you see her in these days). It also had an very ambiguous ending that I really liked. The story seemed to be perfectly set up for a resolution to be handed to the reader on a silver platter, and when that didn't end up happening it was a pretty clever twist.

The second story is a reprint from the 1970s, but also written by Dennis O'Neil. This is the classic Wonder Woman vs. Catwoman battle. Diana is in non-powered mode here, so it's a pretty even fight, although it doesn't come to any conclusive finish. The overall plot involves a Tibetan cult and a hypnotic gem. Also featured here is Diana's sensei from this time period, I-Ching (no, really, that was the dude's name).

This wasn't perfect. There was some goofiness to it, which was fine because that was the flavor they were going for, but there was also a lot left unresolved. In the first story (the new story written for this book) that was also part of the point. The second story ends on a cliffhanger because that was the nature of the issue they chose to reprint. I guess they figured that having the Catwoman guest spot was worth the trouble of using a story that didn't quite end.

Still, in spite of some of it being silly, I really liked this portrayal of Wonder Woman. I got some new appreciation for the non-powered version of the character, and I was impressed with the logic and the flow of the fight scenes, even in the reprinted portion.

Maybe when DC does their relaunch of Wonder Woman (and everything else; see my review here), they should go for "Groovy Amazon Adventures" with the occasional judo chop. It couldn't be worse than what they've been doing with the character in the last few years (don't get me started on breaking Max Lord's neck, Amazons Attack, Genocide, and other such idiocy; that is a rather long rant best saved for another day).

But yeah, judo chops. I can dig that.

Rating: 7.5/10

Seven Months Of Comics!

Here's what the first (just about) seven months of comics I've reviewed looks like spread out on a table:

And in a standard comic box:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Transformers: Movie Prequel Free Comic Book Day Edition

Back to the Free Comic Book Day stack. This is another Free Comic Book Day promo from a previous year that I picked up this year as a bonus giveaway.

Title: Transformers: Movie Prequel Free Comic Book Day Edition
Date: 2007
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Chris Ryall, Simon Furman
Artist: Don Figueroa
Colorist: Josh Burcham
Letterer: Robbie Robbins
Editor: Chris Ryall

"*All dialogue (inner and outer) translated from the Cybertronian - Optimal Ed." Ha! Nice nod to Marvel on the first page.

And now, a disclaimer. I'm not a Transformers guy. I was just a bit too old to be into the toys when they came out (although I owned a few of the early transforming Shogun Warriors toys that were the predecessors of the Transformers). I was still watching a few cartoon shows at that point, but my TV routine didn't include Transformers. Maybe it was just on at a bad time. I watched G.I. Joe, although I tended to mock it. I took Robotech a lot more seriously. But I don't think I ever even sat through a full episode of Transformers.

So I'm probably not the target audience here.

The book takes place on Cybertron, some unspecified length of time before Megan Fox started running away from explosions in slow motion. This story sets up the background and the motivation for the events of the Transformers film.

See there's this thingee called the Allspark. It's sorta like a combination of God, the Force, and the One Ring. Megatron and the Decepticons are fighting a war against the Autobots in an attempt to seize the Allspark. Optimus Prime has hidden the Allspark in an obscure location while he tries to decoy the bad guys.

Most of the tension in this comes from the fact that only the leader of the badly outnumbered band of good robots who are the focus of the action actually realizes that they are, in fact, guarding the real location of the McGuffinspark.

The story take itself very seriously. Megatron has a Lucifer vibe as the former "Lord Protector" who co-ruled with Optimus prime before he turned heel.

The story isn't anything all that original, but it's effective.

What is not effective is the artwork. See the disclaimer. Maybe I'm just not used to dealing with these more-than-meets-the-eye types, but I had a really hard time telling who the heck anyone was or what was going on during most of the fight scenes.

Now I understand that if I pick up an issue of say, X-men, in the middle of some monster crossover event (say, Fall of the Mutants) that the random issue is not going to make it easy for me as a new reader to figure out a complex storyline with a huge cast at whatever point I decide to jump in.

But folks, this is a Free Comic Book Day giveaway. It is supposed to be written for the purpose of bringing new fans on board. I don't need my hand held, but could we at least make it so I can tell which robot is a good robot and which robot is a bad robot?

Rating: 5.5/10

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Jerry Iger's Golden Features #1

Another yard sale find.

Title: Jerry Iger's Golden Features
Issue: #1
Date: 1986
Publisher: Blackthorne Publishing
Writer: Ruth Roche
Artist: Matt baker

First issue of a series reprinting classic Matt Baker work from the 1940s. Although the cover proudly proclaims this as an "All-Flamingo Issue", the book actually consists of two Flamingo stories and one Ace of the Newsreels story.

Flamingo is a gypsy, traveling with her father and the rest of their gypsy band through France. The portrayal includes some stereotypes, but it avoids some of the nasty racism that is often directed at Roma. Flamingo and her band are not thieves or criminals, and there are no hints of curses or witchcraft. Flamingo herself is a very likable character, kind and compassionate but unwilling to back down in the face of danger.

The first Flamingo story is the better of the two. It's a crime story involving Flamingo and her father uncovering a conspiracy to impersonate a dead man in order to gain access to his family fortune as well as a secret formula that is sought by foreign (Communist, presumably) agents. Flamingo's father is a mask-crafter, and he knows that the man is an impostor because he personally crafted death-mask of the dead man who is being impersonated.

There's also a romantic subplot that comes into play before the bad guys get what is coming to them.

The second story involved Flamingo helping a man who has been falsely accused of theft. It was good except for the ending, which was way too abrupt.

The final feature was a very choppy mystery story involving reporter Ace Williams. It had a bunch of plot twists, but they were so sudden that the story was difficult to follow.

Matt Baker did a tremendous job with the artwork. Unfortunately, the reproduction quality of this reprint leaves much to be desired. This book is better for getting a sense of the type of stories Baker was working on than for really gaining an appreciation for his artwork.

Rating: 6.5/10

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sailor Moon: Friends & Foes

This was a recent yard sale find.

Title: Sailor Moon: Friends & Foes
Issue: 2
Publisher: Kodansha
Creator: Naoko Takeuchi
Book Design: Matthew Van Fleet

Only sixteen pages, but hardcover binding! This isn't so much a comic as a general illustrated introduction to the Sailor Moon Universe. How effective is it? Well, I knew essentially nothing about Sailor Moon before I read this, and now I feel like I've got a pretty decent grasp of the characters and concepts, so yeah, I'd describe this as a reasonably good introduction.

It even comes with a rhyme: "One scout is strong/But when there are three/It doesn't take long/To defeat an enemy!" Okay, so it's not exactly the Green Lantern Oath, but it probably sounds better in Japanese.

The actual backstory, as presented here is reasonably cool. The characters seem a bit on the goofy side, particularly the villains, but that is the style of story that is being told.

My only real gripe is that the book is awfully light on content. Admittedly the MSRP is only about $5, but still, I feel like if you're going to do a hardcover edition, even a sixteen-page one, you should make every page count. The pictures are pretty, but I would have liked some more story and some more background on the characters.

Rating: 6/10

By the way, I'm selling my copy of this for the low price of $1. Listing is here!

Monday, July 25, 2011


From the backlog. No idea where I got this one.

Title: Transfusion
Date: 2009
Publisher: Dogooder Comics
Writer: John Curtis Jennison Jr.
Artist: John Curtis Jennison Jr.

Autobiographical minicomic. A hospital patient helps get through his nervousness about the blood transfusions that will save his life by imagining the identities of the five donors whose units of blood he has received.

This is a very stream-of-consciousness reflection on the topic, but also a very heartfelt one. Writer/artist John Curtis Jennison Jr. does a great job of capturing the thoughts he was going through during his hospital stay.

Editing is slightly shaky in some places, but this is a very real story with a great message. Give blood. The life you save might be a comic creator's!

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, July 24, 2011

DC Comics: The New 52 #1

Title: DC Comics: The New 52
Date: 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciler: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Editor: Jim Lee, Dan DiDio

If you're following mainstream comics at all, then you're probably aware of the DC comics relaunch that's coming in a few weeks. This is a preview book covering the complete revamping of the DC Universe, with every ongoing comic being restarted with a new issue #1 (even longterm legacy books like Action Comics and Detective Comics, both of which were closing in on #1000 in the next few years).

This book is a freebie, and it contains two basic components. The first is five pages of the new Justice League #1 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. To make matters slightly more confusing, the sample scene takes place in a five-year flashback to "a time when the world didn't know what a super-hero was". So you've got the Batman doing his typical Batman thing, chasing down some generic villain/monster across the rooftops of Gotham with the GCPD (who are apparently still incompetent; I guess some things just never change). Green Lantern shows up dispatches the bad guy with a firetruck construct before going all fangirlish for the Batman, who apparently has better things to do than to sign an autograph for Hal Jordan.

Jim Lee's art is gorgeous. The writing was simply dull. We've seen this kind of "Year One" stuff a million times, and nothing about this was fresh, new, or even all that interesting.

The rest of the book is just a big ad for all 52 of the new series that will constitute the new version of the DC Universe, at least until the next Crisis, which if they are true to schedule should occur sometime in mid-2013.

As a bonus for putting up with my cynicism, here are my (brief) thoughts on every book in the New 52:

Justice League: Good solid lineup (Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Flash, The Batman, Superman, Green Lantern; although my understanding is that they'll be including a bunch of second-stringers as cannon fodder). Jim Lee's art should be great for this. Stories will probably be fairly generic.

Justice League International: August General in Iron? Really? Really? Fire and Ice are usually cute and entertaining. So is Rocket Red for that matter. Guy Gardner is good for comic relief. So is Booster Gold. Actually just about everyone on this team is good for comic relief. Oh, and the Batman (who is not usually good for comic relief, except when paired with pretty much anyone on this team) is on here too, just in case August General in Iron fails to sell books.

Aquaman: Apparently they have a new race of creatures called (oddly) The Trench. They claim The Trench will be the most talked-about new characters in the DC Universe. From the glimpse we get in this book I'm expecting that HP Lovecraft fans will do lots of talking about how The Trench are a ripoff of Lovecraft's Deep Ones. Oh, and Aquaman in the book too. Hopefully he will do some talking to fish.

Wonder Woman: So, she's carrying a bloody sword in the sample art. I'm guessing she has not reverted back to the pacifist version from the George Perez run. Which is too bad. Angry warrior Wonder Woman is tedious.

The Flash: Barry Allen! The preview of this book was pretty generic, but the DC Universe went without Barry Allen for so long that the character is actually pretty fresh at this point. And since Flashpoint is what got us into this whole mess, I would expect this to be a pretty important book.

The Fury of Firestorm: They seem to be going with the shared body thing here, and the two inhabitants can't stand each other. This is the superhero version of one of those movies where two prisoners escape from jail but are handcuffed to each other.

Green Arrow: "Now armed with cutting-edge weaponry and illegally gained intel". Which means the trick arrows are back. Is the boxing-glove arrow considered cutting edge? I love Ollie, and he's been a character who is consistently well written in spite of the idiocy around him, but this looks pretty generic.

The Savage Hawkman: As opposed to the civilized one? Hawkman never did much for me. I expect that trend to continue.

DC Universe Presents: This could be a really great platform for new talent and obscure characters. Or it could be a dumping ground for crap (see Action Comics Weekly). The initial arc features Deadman, so there is some potential at least.

Mister Terrific: Iron-Man ripoff.

Action Comics: I'm a bit of a traditionalist, so I cringe to see this being renumbered. On the other hand, I understand that DC felt that it wouldn't be a clean break if they didn't renumber the big-number books. They claim this is a very different take on Superman, and the sample artwork shows the police shooting at him, so I'm guessing they'll be going for more of a vigilante feel (which would indeed be different, although not that great a fit for the Man of Steel). I wonder if he's still an American citizen.

Superman: The preview of this book focuses more on the Clark Kent identity, which gets a major reboot. In particular, we're going back to bachelorhood for Clark. Oh, and there's a monstrous threat to Metropolis and Superman just might be the cause of it! How very Silver Age of them.

Supergirl: All the powers of Superman, but with teenaged angst. You know, Alan Moore did this. It was called Kid Miracleman, and let me assure you, it did not end well for humanity. This looks like it has the potential to be a disaster more in the bad writing category.

Superboy: This would be a part-human, part-kryptonian clone. Can he develop a conscience? Or a regular readership?

Batman: This is Bruce Wayne as the Batman, to nobody's surprise. The preview promises that the Batman learns that Gotham City is deadlier than he knew. Really? Has he been paying attention lately? Gotham is pretty deadly.

Detective Comics: Preview art (which looks great) features the Joker, although the text says the the Batman is up against a new villain with the rather creative name of The Gotham Ripper.

Batwoman: Kate Kane is one of those characters that I love the concept of, but have not actually read all that much of. So she may be getting a sidekick here (her cousin Bette Kane is third-rate heroine Firebird, apparently). Notably absent from the writeup, any mention of Kate's ex-lover Renee Montoya.

Batman: The Dark Knight: This book apparently will contain follow-up from the Batman Incorporated storyline, corporate intrigue involving Waynecorp, and the Batman fighting through a gauntlet of villains at Arkham Asylum. Nothing really new here, but at least it sounds like it's packed with good Batman lore and loaded with action.

Batman And Robin: The big mystery here is how annoying will Damien Wayne need to get before the Batman smacks him. The new villain is named NoBody, which should at least make for some funny (and Homeric!) dialogue.

Batwing: The Batman of Africa. This actually looks really cool. It will probably be canceled around issue 5.

Batgirl: Wow. Where to begin? This is definitely the most controversial book in the new lineup, and I honestly don't know where I stand in the debate over whether it's the right move to "cure" Barbara Gordon. I will say that I agree with those who have said that Oracle was an absolutely awesome character, and was better written than anything done with Batgirl before that. They've got Gail Simone writing this, so they've got a shot at making it work. I'm really hoping that they get this right somehow.

Nightwing: This is a character that works well, and is usually pretty well written. The opening story involves the return of Haley's Circus to Gotham, so it should be an entertaining nod to the past, and an emotional adventure for Dick Grayson. This one definitely has potential.

Catwoman: "This is a tough, sexy, violent, over-the-top book." - writer Judd Winick. You know, I'm pretty okay with that description for a Catwoman book (less than thrilled to see that the same could probably be said about the new Wonder Woman book, and really about all the books involving female characters).

Birds of Prey: This is going to be the Dinah Lance show, which is good, because she's been great in Birds of Prey. No idea who the heck Starling is, and the rest of the team in the sample art looks silly (Katana? Really? And is that Poison Ivy?).

Red Hood And The Outlaws: What the HECK is Starfire doing in this book? That makes no sense at all.

Green Lantern: Sinestro as Green Lantern. I'm intrigued.

Green Lantern Corps: Looks like we've got Jon Stewart, Killawog, and Guy Gardner, along with a couple of other Lanterns whose names I should know but don't. I'm also pretty sure several of them were dead in the previous continuity. The Corps never did much for me, but I know some people love this stuff. I could never get too far past the can't-affect-yellow foolishness.

Green Lantern: New Guardians: Completely new concept for the team. This is a sort of power-ring rainbow group. We get almost no preview art, but the text assures us that this is the "most powerful team in the universe". Apparently, they also don't get along all that well. Just once I'd love to see someone come up with a team book of guys/gals with mediocre powers, but who get along and work together really well. They'd probably trounce every super-team in the DCU.

Red Lanterns: They're just like the Green Lanterns, but more violent. Yeah, that's exactly what comics needed. Moving on.

Justice League Dark: Okay, I'm not usually into "dark" as much as some folks, but how can you not love a team that consists of Shade: The Changing Man, Madame Xanadu, Deadman, Zatanna, and John f'n Constantine?!? Add in the fact that the original Vertigo Shade: The Changing Man writer Peter Milligan is on board and you've got the first book in this lineup that I'm really excited about.

Swamp Thing: Good to see the Swamp Thing back in the DC Universe. Loads of potential here, but not much revealed in the description.

Animal Man: I really like the fact that they seem to be carrying on the themes of the Vertigo series in this book. Could be really good.

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.: Okay, first of all everyone knows that the monster is NOT named Frankenstein. Has DC not been paying attention? Oh, and S.H.A.D.E. stands for Super Human Advanced Defense Executive.

I, Vampire: Where's Buffy when you need her?

Resurrection Man: Gets reborn with new powers every time he dies. Hey, this sounds like, well, pretty much the entire DC Universe over the last 20-30 years. Nobody stays dead and they're constantly getting repackaged.

Demon Knights: Set during the Middle Ages, Jason Blood/Etrigan get all medieval. No word on whether Etrigan's dialogue will rhyme. I pretty much require rhyming dialogue if I'm going to read an Etrigan book.

Stormwatch: The super-secret Stormwatch team (which sounds like the weather unit on the Channel 5 news) is on a mission to recover the [Information Redacted]. No, really. It actually says that in the writeup. The team includes Martian Manhunter and a bunch of guys I've never heard of.

Voodoo: "Learn the truth about Priscilla Kitaen as she leaves a trail of violence across America." Ooh, a trail of violence across America! What a new and refreshing idea! Oh, and her costume looks like Elektra's except that she's got a scaly dragon-claw hand. This looks awful.

Grifter: Okay, so this guy is apparently the biggest sweet talker of all time. Why does he need the guns, then?

Suicide Squad: Harley Quinn's new costume is basically a wonderful summation of everything that is wrong with the treatment of female characters in comics. Anyway, as much as I like Deadshot, if there's no Amanda Waller (one of the few female characters that DC has ever really gotten right), then I'm not buying.

Deathstroke: Because they just can't call a guy "The Terminator" anymore. Looks like pretty generic anti-hero stuff. This guy really doesn't work for me as the star of his own book.

Teen Titans: Tim Drake is a great character, and Tim as new team leader is a pretty awesome concept. The rest of the team sounds at least entertaining, and it's a pretty classic lineup with Superboy, Wonder Girl, and Kid Flash. Titans has never been my thing (again, I know it's a book that a lot of people love; I'll be making this disclaimer again when we get to the Legion), but this does look like it could be good.

Static Shock: Static moves to NYC all the way from the Dakota Universe (remember that?). They seem to be going for a Spider-Man vibe here. Could have potential.

Hawk And Dove: They're up against someone who is out to plunge the USA into a new civil war. What? Does this mean they're fighting Fox News? Actually that would be kinda cool. The actual book does not look kinda cool. It looks kinda dull.

Blue Beetle: This is basically DC saying "No, you ARE going to like our new version of Blue Beetle. Really." Sorry, still not buying.

All-Star Western: Okay, I love the idea of a 19th Century Gotham City with Amadeus Arkham and Jonah Hex. But since when is Gotham City in the WEST? I always thought it was in New Jersey!

O.M.A.C.: Wait, the Brother Eye Satellite is STILL in orbit after all those various Crises? Really? Checkmate is in this one, in case you were lamenting the loss of Checkmate from the DCU. Oh, and O.M.A.C. now stands for One MACHINE Army Corps. Even an acronym enthusiast like me is having a hard time caring.

Blackhawks: Tom Clancy style vibe here. This could actually be pretty cool.

Men of War: Easy Company are now ex-military men turned contractors. Mercenaries, in other words. I don't mean to sound like a Republican here, but what is the problem with doing a book about the actual US Military? You know, REAL heroes? The Sgt. Rock I grew up with wouldn't work for Blackwater.

Legion Lost: Seven heroes from the future come back to warn all the mutants that the Sentinels are going to take over and... Oh, wait. Sorry, wrong time travel plot. Anyway, this is Legion of Superheroes people stuck in the present. I wonder what the present-day superheroes will think of all the goofy -lad and -lass names? And will any of them become their own ancestors?

And finally... Number fifty-two...

Legion of Super-Heroes: The Legion has been decimated (somehow, I get the impression that DC is not using the technically correct definition of that term; no one ever seems to get that right). The students at the Legion Academy must rise to the challenge of helping the team rebuild while the usual generic cosmic threat looms. I know that a lot of people are really dedicated Legion fans. I've never been that into it, although I am curious to see if they're keeping the goofy names.

Wow. That is a lot of comics. Justice League #1 arrives August 31 and the rest of the books come out in September.

This preview book had lots of nice art samples, but a lot of the descriptions lacked specific information that might be helpful. Still, it's a pretty good overview for readers considering jumping on board the new DCU, and there's a handy checklist on the back cover.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Almost Normal: The Spooky Old Character's Home

Title: Almost Normal Year One
Date: 2010
Publisher: Almost Normal
Writer: Lonnie Dinello
Artist: Lonnie Dinello

When Lonnie cancels her MMORPG account, her zombie character despair is afraid that she'll end up in the Old Characters Home way in the back of Lonnie's head. Dalia doesn't believe such a place exists, but finally agrees to set out with Despair on a quest to see if the spooky old house is real.

Cute story with a fun ending. The minicomic also includes a bonus strip from the webcomic and a sample from the artist's 100 Days Project.

Rating: 7.5/10

Friday, July 22, 2011

Almost Normal Year One

Title: Almost Normal Year One
Date: 2009-2010
Publisher: Almost Normal
Writer: Lonnie Dinello
Artist: Lonnie Dinello

Full-color minicomic collecting the first year of Lonnie Dinello's webcomic, Almost Normal. This is basically a geeky slice-of-life comic with a little help from the characters lurking in the artist's head, primarily an anthropomorphic horse and a World of Warcraft zombie.

Topics covered include WOW and LARPing, the relationship with the boyfriend, Disney's acquisition of Marvel Comics, and art school.

Dinello's got some good punchlines in here, along with plenty of geeky references, and some good insight into the life of a young geeky/artistic woman. The color art looks great in this minicomic version, although a larger font size would have been nice.

Geeky autobiography has virtually become its own subgenre in webcomics, but I was impressed with the mix of humor and heart in Almost Normal. It stands out in a crowded field.

Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Telepathic Wanderers Volume 2

A manga I had lying around. No idea where I got it.

Title: Telepathic Wanderers
Issue: Volume 2
Date: 2006
Publisher: Tokyopop
Writer: Yasutaka Tsutsui
Artist: Sayaka Yamazaki

A small band of psychics is on the run, trying to find a place where they can live in peace without their powers being discovered.

This volume begins with telepath Nanase working in a nightclub in spite of her feelings of revulsion at knowing the true thoughts behind all of the smiles and pleasantries around her. She discovers two new psychics at the club: telekinetic Henry, who seeks her guidance in learning to use his powers, and Nishio, a sadistic clairvoyant whose hobbies include blackmail and rape (note: some potentially triggering scenes here).

The taking down of Nishio is handled cleverly as writer Yasutaka Tsutsui has really put a lot of thought into the potential as well as the limitations of the powers of each character.

The second story takes place on a cruise ship with Henry now traveling along with Nanase and the young precognitive Norio. They encounter a violent confrontation between a young couple and must risk exposing their abilities to prevent a murder.

Good characters and very well thought out action scenes and plot twists make this worth a read. I could have done without some of the more explicit sexual violence. Villain is a bad guy. I get it. I did really like the characters and their relationships, and the artwork is beautiful.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rasgal #2

Here's a full-format comic that I picked up from writer/artist Liz Ortiz at ConnectiCon.

Title: Rasgal
Issue: #2
Date: 2009
Publisher: Immortal Gothic
Writer: Liz Ortiz
Penciler: Liz Ortiz
Inker: Liz Ortiz
Colorist: Albie Luciano

The world of Rascal has a full-scale demonic apocalypse going on, and things are not looking good for the remaining "fresh meat" (which is what the demons are referring to humans as).

Writer/artist Liz Ortiz gets things started fast and furious with a fun aerial battle sequence. Winged hero Zarn carries a mysterious and badly injured girl to safety while his allies provide cover. From there we get a bit more of the big picture before jumping right back into the action.

Ortiz does a nice job of conveying the hopeless battle against the overwhelming demonic forces, and there is plenty of potential for twists and turns in the complex plot.

I was a bit confused by the physical scale of some of the characters, but part of that is probably from picking this up in the second issue where characters and their respective species have already been established.

The dialogue falls back a bit too easily on cliches. There was even a "You'll never get away with this!". To some extent, this is part of the fun. Epic fantasy can use a bit of over-the-top dialogue.

Overall, this was a fast-paced story with plenty of action and was entertaining from start to finish.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, July 18, 2011

Benny & Fritz

Connecticon had a lot of minicomics for sale as anime conventions go. This one is a sampler from a webcomic.

Title: Benny & Fritz: A Story of Death in the Trenches of World War One
Publisher: Cory-June Vigants
Writer: Cory-June Vigants
Artist: Cory-June Vigants

Three ghosts, one American soldier, one German soldier, and one civilian, are trapped in a purgatorial No-Man. In this sample minicomic, the ghosts are entertaining each other with poetry with varying levels of success. Good moody art style, and a quirky style of humor to go along with the rather existentialist scenario. This only gives a quick glimpse of the webcomic it's based on, but it's a fun segment.

Rating: 7/10.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Science Project Gone Wrong

Here's another minicomic I picked up from an artist I met at ConnectiCon.

Title: Science Project Gone Wrong
Date: 2011
Publisher: Kristilyn
Writer: Kristilyn Stevenson
Artist: Kristilyn Stevenson

Fifteen year old scientist Maddy grows her cat, Dark Matter, to giant-size. What do you do with a giant cat? Lots of things, it turns out. I particularly liked racing the bus.

Then she sets out to breed a giant carnivorous plant. Things don't go quite as planned, and she ends up with a giant herbivorous plant.

This is a very cute minicomic with a whimsical art style and a fun lead character.

Rating: 7.5/10

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Burden Of Parenthood

My third review from ConnectiCon.

Title: The Burden Of Parenthood
Date: June, 2011
Publisher: Bittersweet Candy Bowl
Writer: Veronica Vera
Artist: Veronica Vera

Sampler from the Bitterweet Candy Bowl webcomic. This b/w half-sized minicomic reprints a story arc from the webcomic that involved the (anthropomorphic feline) teenaged protagonists caring for mechanical babies for a week as part of a middle school sex-ed project.

The webcomic promises unpretentious teen romance/comedy/drama, and that is pretty much what is delivered here. There's a strong focus on character, some comic relief moments, and some pretty insightful interactions.

I particularly liked the fact that the teacher breaks a tiny bit out of her over-the-top depiction toward the end of the story.

The artwork does suffer a bit from the loss of color with the transition into print, but this was still a nice entertaining little slice of life story.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, July 14, 2011

24 Hour Comic Presents: Sentinels Of Blood Island

Title: 24 Hour Comic Presents: Sentinels Of Blood Island
Date: 2011
Publisher: Free Lunch Comics
Writer: Matt Ryan
Artist: Matt Ryan

This is Matt Ryan's 2010 24-Hour Comic Day effort, published in standard comic format.

The story is a pretty basic horror tale. A recently married couple is enjoying a "working honeymoon". The husband, a professional travel writer and explorer who appears on cable TV shows about exotic locations, is planning to visit the mysterious Blood Island. Interspersed with the story pages are pages of his notes and observations. A guide brings him to within sight of the strange island, but various forces conspire to keep him from making landfall.

In addition to the story itself, this book also includes creator Matt Ryan's notes on the 24-hour comic process, with page-by-page updates on his progress as he worked plotted out and drew the comic.

This is a nice package for anyone interested in the 24-Hour Comic Day event, and it's packaged with a decent little creepy tale.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sky Pirates of Valendor Series 2 #3

Well, lack of working internet access at our hotel killed the plan to do live reviews, but otherwise Connecticon was a great show. I picked up about six comics to review. Here's the first of those.

Title: Sky Pirates of Valendor
Issue: Series 2 #3
Date: 2011
Publisher: Jolly Rogue Studios
Writer: Everett Soares
Penciler: Brian Brinlee
Inker: Alex Rivera
Tones: Jet Amago
Letterer: Steve Kuster
Editor: Amy Haley, Elizabeth Tramonti

Gearz and Shyni don't like each other. They're pretty incompatible just on a personal level, but when you add in the fact that they are rivals for the affections of one Captain Tobin Manheim you've got a powder keg that's ready to explode.

Which is pretty much what this issue is. A bit of setup, followed by a six pages of brawl between Gearz and Shyni.

Then the real fun starts. Gearz and Shyni need to work together to deal with an assassin who has been slowly poisoning a prince. As you might imagine, it's a shaky alliance.

There were a few minor problems with this issue. The "story so far" text that opens the piece is more complex than it needs to be, and the story indulges in a bit of a cliché by not having the fight between the rivals reach a real conclusion. It felt like too easy a solution for the writer.

But what really stands out in this issue in the amount and the quality of the action. It's almost non-stop, and it's really good, convincing action that flows well.

This is definitely the best installment in the Sky Pirates series in terms of just plain fun, and it does a great job of delivering the swashbuckling action that the setting was made for.

Rating: 7.5/10

Friday, July 8, 2011

Reviewing Live From Connecticon This Weekend

I've really been slipping on keeping up with the daily reviews, but I got one tonight, and I'm hitting the road early tomorrow morning for the ConnectiCon convention in Hartford CT.

Over the next few days, look for some reviews of my ConnectiCon purchases. Several of my favorite local creators will be there and I'm looking forward to checking out some new comics.

If your're attending, stop by and say hello. Dandelion Studios is at Table 36B in the Artists Colony.

Alien Implant Comics Anthology

Title: Alien Implant Comics Anthology
Writer: Donna Martinez, Joey Peters, Lindsay Moore
Artist: Donna Martinez, Joey Peters, James Mobius
Letterer: Joey Peters

Four stories makes up this anthology in minicomic form. The first and last are specifically related to the theme.

First up is "Among Us", a pretty clever twist on the alien conspiracy theories. The ending had an nice classic Outer Limits or Twilight Zone feel to it, which played well with the X-Files style buildup.

The second story was more of an autobiographical piece. "Natto Challenge" told the tale a group of American tourists in Japan and their encounter with a TV talk show crew who were looking for the reactions of foreigners to one of the local delicacies. I'm a sucker for geeky autobiographical comics, and I would have loved to see more of the adventures of these characters.

The third story, "The Lost Shadow" was more cartoony (in the Warner Brothers sense) and more surreal and humorous.

"Panic Attack", the last tale was done in a similar art style to the opening piece. It kept up the surrealism, but went for a much more serious storytelling style, and played around some more with the book's title theme.

All in all, a nice set of short stories, all of which leave room to be expanded into bigger tales.

Rating: 7.5/10

Monday, July 4, 2011

Atomic Robo Free Comic Book Day 2011

Getting back on track now that the 30-day meme is over.

Title: Atomic Robo Free Comic Book Day 2011
Date: May 2011
Publisher: Red 5 Comics
Writer: Brian Clevinger, Trevor Pryce, David Ziebart, Tony Trov, Johnny Zito
Artist: Scott Wegener, Dan Glasl, Ambert Gant, The Rahzzah
Colorist: Ronda Pattison, Adam Guzowski
Letterer: Jeff Powell, Troy Peteri, Gabe Bautista

The Atomic Robo story here is played mostly for laughs as Robo is one of the celebrity judges at a school science fair, which is then attacked by a talking dinosaur who goes to multiple levers of meta in a barrage of Doctor Who references in the midst of his fight with Robo. Opening bit was silly, but once the bad guy got on the scene the dialogue was witty and very funny. I love the general geekiness of this book. Writer Brian Clevinger also took advantage of Atomic Robo's tradition of jumping time periods to put a satisfying and touching (but still fun) ending on this.

The backup stories were Foster Broussard, and Moon Girl. Foster Broussard showed potential to be a nice steampunk/weird west tale, although all we got here was an introduction. It was a bit wordy, and the (anti-?) hero's ability to talk himself out of a hanging seemed a bit contrived. That being said, this did a nice job of laying down the foundation of a tale with a lot of potential.

Moon Girl was a superhero piece, with the title character battling a female crime lord and her henchmen. The two characters clearly share some background, but not all that much is explained in between punches.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, July 1, 2011

30 Day Comics Challenge Days 28-30

Fell behind, but I'm doing a quick catch-up on the last three.

Day 28 - Favorite Comic Publisher.

This was a really hard one for me. I tend to love books and creators, but seldom a publisher's entire line. I suppose I could go with a publisher that is basically publishing a single book that I love, like Cartoon Books or Paradise Valley Comics or Plastic Farm Press, but that seemed like cheating. Picking Vertigo also seemed like cheating, since Vertigo is not really a publisher, but rather a specific line produced by a larger publisher.

I finally decided to choose a publisher based on their unique place in history. My choice is EC Comics.

EC revolutionized horror in comics. They also pioneered other genres. And then, when they were pressured to shut down their horror comics during the "Seduction of the Innocent" panic, they didn't just get even... They got Mad.

I didn't discover the EC horror comics until later in life, but I grew up with Mad. Spy vs. Spy, fold-ins, snappy answers to stupid questions. Awesome stuff that helped shape my sense of humor and taught me that you can find something to laugh at in just about anything.

Day 29 - A comic you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving.

In 1986, I didn't know my history. Or rather, I knew a ton about certain periods of history that I was interested in. But the history of the Vietnam War wasn't part of my experience. My dad was a Vietnam-era army veteran, but he spent his time serving in Korea and never saw combat. I had no perspective on this period of history, so when I started hearing people singing the praises of Marvel's Vietnam War comic, I figured it wasn't something I'd be all that into.

Turns out, The 'Nam was a pretty awesome book, and I ended up following it regularly for most of its run. There were some flaws: a rotating cast (due to an well-intentioned idea of running the book in "real time"), and some silly crossovers toward the end. But overall, it was a great series with some of the best depictions of war that have appeared in comics.

Day 30 - Your favorite run or series of all time.

Another really difficult choice, of course. I'm going to go with Alan Moore here, and while all of his work that I've read has been pretty awesome, I'm going to pick V For Vendetta.

It's a complete story, something that Miracleman isn't, as much as I loved Miracleman. And for me it gets the nod over Watchmen because I feel that V For Vendetta's dystopia is a more more real and immediate one than that of Watchmen. Watchmen is in many ways a comic book about comic books. V seems more ambitious to me, while still holding a better focus. I also love Evey Hammond (who is the true main character of V For Vendetta), and I can't say that I related to any of the characters in Watchmen the way I related to Evey.

V For Vendetta is just brilliant stuff from the twisted plot, to the political allegory, down to cultural references and the poetic style of the language.

From My Creations

These last three are difficult to answer in the context of my own comics.

Favorite Publisher

Well, I have my own comic company. It's Dandelion Studios. I think it's pretty cool and getting better all the time.

A Comic You Thought You Wouldn’t Like, But Ended Up Loving

Well, it isn't that I didn't like the idea, it's just that I had no idea how GOOD it could be. For 24-Hour Comic Day in 2005, Gynn did a 24-page quarter-sized minicomic called I believe. It was about what cats believe in. I figured, hey, people like cats, maybe they'll like our comic.

It ended up being published in the 2005 24-Hour Comic Anthology. And over the years we've sold more copies of this little photocopied minicomic than all our other comics put together. That is definitely what I call exceeding expectations.

Favorite Run Or Series Of All Time

It's a bit unfair on my artists and co-writers to choose, but if you were to really press me on this one, it would be the comic that I've described as "near and dear to my heart".

That comic is called Stone. It started with a very simplistic idea (I wanted to write about a woman warrior who actually LOOKED like she could actually beat you up, as opposed to looking like, you know, a bikini model). It grew to be a lot more than that. We're one issue in with a second just about scripted, so it's got a way to go, but I think by the time it's done it will be pretty awesome.

But like I said, it's near and dear to my heart.

This has been a lot of fun. I've enjoyed all of the insights into the world of comics that everyone else has shared, and I hope you've gotten a bit of insight into how I look at comics.

The 30 Day Comic Challenge Page on Facebook is here. Here is the complete list of daily topics:

30 Day Comic Challenge
Day 01 - Your first comic book.
Day 02 - Your favorite character.
Day 03 - A comic that is underrated.
Day 04 - Your guilty pleasure comic or character.
Day 05 - Comic character you feel you are most like (or wish you were).
Day 06 - Most annoying character.
Day 07 - Favorite comic couple.
Day 08 - Best series being published right now.
Day 09 - Most touching comic book/comic book scene.
Day 10 - Dream versus match.
Day 11 - Favorite comic book cartoon series.
Day 12 - A comic everyone should read.
Day 13 - A book you’ve read more than five times.
Day 14 – Most awesome single comic book image
Day 15 - A Picture from the comic you’re reading right now.
Day 16 - Funniest comic book/comic book scene.
Day 17 - Most useless Villain.
Day 18 - Favorite B-list character.
Day 19 - Comic book city/universe you wish you lived in.
Day 20 - Favorite super power or skill.
Day 21 - Favorite writer.
Day 22 - A series that you liked but stopped reading
Day 23 - Your favorite artist.
Day 24 - Dream character team up.
Day 25 - A book you plan on reading.
Day 26 - A comic you wish they would make into a movie.
Day 27 - Favorite comic book movie.
Day 28 - Favorite comic publisher.
Day 29 - A comic you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving.
Day 30 - Your favorite run or series of all time.