Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Graphic Library: Lessons In Science Safety With Max Axiom Super Scientist

I have found Vietnamese manga! Technically, it's Japanese and Korean manga translated into Vietnamese, but my understanding is that it's mostly imported manga that have been popular here. These books are very inexpensive here: less than one US dollar each. I plan to add them to the review queue, but I'll be going through them translating with a dictionary, so it may be a while before my first review of a Vietnamese book occurs.

In the meantime, there is the stack of comics I brought from the US. This is another educational book that I picked up at the NSTA convention this past spring.

Title: Lessons In Science Safety With Max Axiom, Super Scientist
Publisher: <a href="">Capstone Press</a>
Date: 2007
Writer: Donald B. Lemke, Thomas K. Adamson
Artist: Tod Smith, Bill Anderson

This is part of a series that features science superhero Max Axiom teaching a wide range of science concepts. This particular issue covers safety in the lab, which provides for a bit of irony, since Max is all about preventing accidents in this book, but his origin mentions that he acquired all his awesome superpowers in (wait for it...) a freak accident.

There isn't really a plot. Just Max showing a group of students around the lab, pointing out safety issues, and bringing in holographic guest-scientists to show how the same principles apply in the school science lab as in industrial and research labs.

While it's not much in the story department, and some of the attempts at humor fall flat, the book does do an excellent job of clearly and smoothly communicating the information that it needs to cover, Definitely a worthwhile classroom tool, although it's no substitute for having a specific and comprehensive lesson on safety for the particular lab. 

The artwork was quite good, and all of the equipment shown was accurately drawn.

This book accomplishes its purpose quite well.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, July 28, 2014

Justice League of America #80

First review in a while, and there have been big changes in my life since the last time I posted here. I'm typing this from our new apartment in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where we are currently settling in. I start my new day job here in a few days.

We were pretty limited in the amount of stuff we were able to bring over, and the packing was something of a whirlwind process. As a result, only a small stack of comics from the seemingly-endless backlog made the trip. I've got a baker's dozen comics with me...

... Plus about five graphic novels. After that, I'll have to find them locally.

In the meantime, let's start with a classic American issue: A Justice League comic from 1970.

Title: Justice League of America
Issue: 80
Date: May, 1970
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Artist: Dick Dillin, Joe Giella

Thanagaran bad guy Norch Lor is stealing souls with something he calls a Ghenna box, and the JLA mostly stumble around trying to stop him. Lor's motivations are a bit fuzzy here, but basically he is out to preserve souls due to some impending universal apocalypse.

He is one of those pesky villains that gives the League more trouble than he has any right to. And unfortunately, the plot is loaded with little inconsistencies, down to the effects of his Ghenna thingee. It puts some victims into a coma while it leaves others in a kind of zombie-like condition.

I did like the fact that it is Canary who finally gets the upper hand on the bad guy (with a sleeper-hold, no less!), but the plot holes here were just a bit too frequent and too large. There was also a rather tired "an unprotected person can survive for 10 seconds in space" bit, which I have seen done in at least two other comics from this general time period. And the story hinted on the cover bears little resemblance to what actually occurs.

I did like to science facts backup features which took up a couple of pages of the book.

But a bad villain and a bad weak plot don't make for much entertainment value.

Rating: 4.5/10

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Spectra #5

Here's  the fifth issue in this educational series that I picked up at the National Conference on Science Education.

Title: Spectra
Issue: 5
Publisher: American Physical Society
Date: 2013
Writer: Rebecca Thompson
Artist: Kerry G. Johnson

Holofoil cover that looks great in person, but loses a bit in the scanning process.

Having reached at least a truce with rival Tiffany Maxwell, Lucy Hene focuses on the upcoming state championship swim meet. Lucy and the Nikola Tesla Middle School Chargers are set to face their arch-rivals (wait for it...), the Thomas A. Edison Middle School Wizards. The audience cheers are nicely full of Tesla vs. Edison references, of course.

But something strange is going on with the Chargers' coach. He seems to have developed some water elemental style superpowers of his own, and when mayhem breaks loose at the state finals, it's up to Lucy and her friends to bring the... um... corn starch? No, really. It's a viscosity thing and it totally makes sense. At least enough for the story to work. Besides, what comic has ever had a climactic battle that hinged on corn starch? I would guess that Spectra is the only one.

This was fun, but it felt rushed in places. There was more story here than there was really page count for, although Thompson and Johnson do a good job of fitting in all of the essential plot points.

Still. Corn starch. For the win.

Rating: 6.5/10

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Lady Skylark and the Queen's Treasure Act 1

I picked this one up at MECAF.

Title: Lady Skylark and the Queen's Treasure
Issue: Act 1
Date: 2013
Publisher: Jackie Musto
Writer: Christopher Parent
Artist: Jackie Musto

Writer Christopher Parent teams up with artist Jackie Musto (of Kay And P) for this steampunk tale.

A mutiny leaves rogue captain Skylark stranded on a mountaintop. Fortunately for her, the airship Lady Abbess happens by, but the captain of the Lady Abbess is a sexist oaf, and he also happens to have gotten his hands on some cargo that could mean serious trouble.

This was a fun opening to what promises to be a great steampunk adventure. There were a lot of little details in the artwork that add to the story, and the character and ship designs are great.

This volume also included several pages of concept sketches and notes, and a short flashback story.

Looking forward to seeing more. This story is available as a free webcomic here.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lex Talionis: A Jungle Tale

A recent dollar store find.

Title: Lex Talionis: A Jungle Tale
Date: January, 2004
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Aeurin Wright
Artist: Aeurin Wright
Letterer: Blambot

The first thing I noticed about this book was the odd format, with the spine located at the top of the front cover, rather than on the left.

This is a story of a gorilla attack in an unspecified region of Africa. It's fictional, although it makes mention of the real events surrounding the death of gorilla researcher Dian Fossey in 1985.

The style and pacing of the story give the impression of a hardboiled crime novel, and essentially that is what Lex Talionis is at its heart. It also raises some interesting questions about human and gorilla intelligence and emotion.

The story is simple, but very effective, and Wright's artwork brings the intensity and the violence of the story without excessive gore.

This is a good, tightly constructed short story in graphic form.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, June 6, 2014

Superman #206

 Here's another comic that I got at Free Comic Book Day 2014 at New England Comics in Quincy MA. Once again, this was an extra giveaway, and not one of the official FCBD books.

Title: Superman
Issue: 206
Date: August, 2004
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Penciler: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Editor: Will Dennis, Eddie Berganza
Cover: Jim Lee

This continues a storyline (I review issue #205 here) involving Superman attempting to intervene to stop a war in the Middle East, as told through the frame of Superman talking with Father Leone, the Metropolis priest who has served as an informal spiritual advisor to the Man of Steel.

In this issue, Superman recounts the end of the civil war, and his actions once he realized that victory for rebel General Nox is inevitable.

I'm still enjoying the approach of no easy answers for Superman in this storyline. The situation in the fictional country where it is set is complex and constantly changing, and Superman is just trying to do good, even if it means he must give his support to Nox, who has his own insurance policy in the form of super-soldier Equus.

There is some nice buildup to a full battle with Equus. Superman's frustration comes through loud and clear as circumstances keep preventing him from having that confrontation.

This continues to be a good, complex story.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, May 30, 2014

Facebrace: The Comic

It was good to see Ben Doane at MeCAF and to pick up his latest minicomic.

Title: Facebrace: The Comic
Date: 2014
Publisher: Benjamin Doane and The Facebrace Collective
Writer: Benjamin Doane
Artist: Benjamin Doane, John F. Quirk, Sadie Saunders, Renata Davis, Nico Hammill, Sarah Hachey

Surreal minicomic involving time travel, pancakes, and an apocalypse caused by the installation of port of Windows 95 to play Pokemon Yellow.

There is also an app that tells you whether it is Christmas, some dog-sitting, and a running battle with rocket-powered heely nomadz.

I will admit to not getting all of this, but I am pretty sure that was part of the point. And even the parts I didn't get were good bizarre fun.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Giant-Size Action #0

I got a whole pack of these flip book from Red Giant Entertainment during Free Comic Book Day. Here's one that features Nikola Tesla.

Title: Giant-Size Action
Issue: 0
Publisher: Red Giant Entertainment
Date: May, 2014
Writer: Benny R. Powell, Terry Keefe, David Lawrence
Artist: Nigel Raynor, Bong Dazo
Colorist: Jay David Ramos, Michael Bartolo
Letterer: Benny R. Powell, Zach Metheny
Cover: Studio Hive
Editor: Brian Augustyn, David Lawrence

Flip book.

First story is Tesla: The Future Is Mine, featuring Nikola Tesla, in some steampunk flavored historical action. The story features appearances by Pierre Curie and Mark Twain, but the main character is really Mathilde Poincare (the scientist/mathematician Henri Poincare is never actually mentioned, but it would make sense in story terms for Mathilde to be his daughter).

Tesla (who is not actually all that appealing a character here) manages to pretty much end up as the damsel in distress, hanging off of the Eiffel Tower only to be rescued by Mathilde in a scene that's a lot of fun. Mathilde is intriguing. Tesla has potential. As does this story.

Flip the book over and you get: Wayward Sons, an urban fantasy that seems to be influence by a hodgepodge of mythology. It opens with a father and son practicing swordplay. When the son's magical powers manifest themselves, the father takes the son to meet a young woman with psychic abilities of her own.

Then there is a random encounter with a minotaur. No, really. A minotaur just kinda shows up and they fight it. Alanis the female "Wayward Son" (why the gender-specific title if the main characters are one man and one woman?) pulls out a bow and proceeds to go all Katniss Everdeen on the minotaur and it's off to the next stop on the quest to defeat whatever big evil is out there dropping minotaurs into people's living rooms.

This was harmless fun. It had good pacing and tolerable dialogue, and the potential to get more interesting as it continues.

Potential is kind of the watchword here. It will be interesting to see if either series lives up to that potential.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

O P Q: Adventures In Substitute Teaching

Here is one that I got at MeCAF.

Title: O P Q: Adventures In Substitute Teaching
Publisher: Anne Thalheimer
Date: 2012
Writer: Anne Thalheimer
Artist: Anne Thalheimer

Autobiographical minicomic about the artist's experiences as a substitute teacher, covering for pretty much all grades and subjects.

I loved the facial expressions in this. Thalheimer has some great visual reactions to all of the situations she gets into, whether it be bait-and-switch assignments at school, adorable preschoolers, obnoxious middle-schoolers, or having to teach gym class.

As a teacher myself, I could appreciate a lot of the situations described in this comic. I also learned some things about public school subbing that were new to me.

There were some great anecdotes, especially toward the end, and I would have love to see even more details of the day-to-day interactions with the students.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mouse Guard Labyrinth And Other Stories

Archaia goes all-in with this hardcover Free Comic Book Day anthology.

Title: Mouse Guard Labyrinth And Other Stories
Publisher: Archaia
Date: 2014
Writer: David Petersen, Royden Lepp, Adam Smith, Sean Rubin, Tom Hammock, Ramon K. Perez
Artist: David Petersen, Royden Lepp, Kyla Vanderklugt, Sean Rubin, Megan Hutchison, Ramon K. Perez
Colorist: Ian Herring
Letterer: Deron Bennett

Gotta hand it to Archaia. They know how to do Free Comic Book Day right. This is a beautiful full-color hardcover anthology, and yes, it's a freebie.

This book has six stories, some complete short graphic stories and others just teasers. Archaia's deal with the Jim Henson Company is represented with stories set in the world's of Labyrinth and Farscape. The rest of the stories represent Archaia's stable of original creations.

First up is "The Tale of the Axe Trio", an absolutely wonderful Mouse Guard short that tells the tale of three sisters who inherited the fabled Black Axe together, and wielded it as a team. This is a really fun bit of lore for the Mouse Guard universe, and it's the most complete story here.

I also enjoyed the Labyrinth piece, although I must admit to not having seen Labyrinth since, well, probably since the 80s.

Rust was a visual treat, although just a tease in terms of story, and Bolivar was a fun quirky bit of surrealism.

The remaining two stories, Farscape and Will O' The Whisp, got a bit bogged down in the complexity of their respective universes, and these felt more like standard Free Comic Book Day preview fare.

Still, this blows away anything that I've seen any other publishers doing for FCBD, and I found it to be worth a read just for the Mouse Guard story.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Sensational Spider-Man #33.2

This is another book that I picked up on Free Comic Book Day from New England Comics. It's not an actual FCBD giveaway, just a random comic from the box of extra freebies at NEC.

Title: The Sensational Spider-Man
Issue: 33.2
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: October, 2012
Writer: Tom DeFalco
Penciler: Carlo Barberi
Inker: Walden Wong
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles
Cover: Simone Bianchi
Editor: Tom Brennan

I haven't really read much from Marvel during this timeframe, so I have no idea what is up with that numbering system.

NYPD detective Carlie Cooper finds herself in the midst of a case involving human trafficking, immigration, elements of the Russian mob, and the new incarnation of the Vulture.

While Cooper pursues the case through her channels, with help from Peter Parker, Spider-Man is going after the bad guys using his own methods. This story didn't duck the complexities of the human trafficking and immigration issues, and it had a pretty interesting cast of minor characters, all pursuing their own agendas.

Detective Cooper is particularly interesting as she grapples with issues of what is right versus what is the law.

Rating: 7.5/10

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Kay And P Volume 2

I saw Jackie Musto last week at MeCAF, but I actually picked up this book through Kickstarter.

Title: Kay And P
Issue: Volume 2
Date: 2014
Publisher: Jackie Musto
Writer: Jackie Musto
Artist: Jackie Musto

This trade paperback collects issues 6-10 of the comic, which, in turn reprints the webcomic version of the same story.

The story is about a young woman who lives with a talking skeleton that has been her companion since childhood and that only she can see. That's how things stand at the start of this volume, anyway.

Kay, an aspiring artist and music student, lives by a simple set of rules: "Don't call me your girlfriend. Don't leave your stuff at my place. And it's not anything serious." She has good friends, good conversations, and not enough time to get everything done.

Kay is also beginning to notice strange things around her, and not just the skeleton who's been her best friend since she was a kid.

Kay is an instantly engaging character with a great supporting cast, dialogue that flows naturally, and enough geeky qualities to make her interesting. P is the overprotective practical member of the team, and he has some great reactions to Kay's adventures, not to mention running snarky commentary.

This was fun all the way through. There were some interesting plot twists, including an absolutely awesome surprise ending.

I'd really only read this in bits and pieces online. I loved how nicely the story flowed when it was put together.

Clever and fun.

Rating: 8.5/10

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pillow Talk

Here is a minicomic that I picked up last Sunday aat MeCAF

Title: Pillow Talk
Publisher: Scott Springer
Date: 2014
Writer: Scott Springer
Artist: Scott Springer

Minicomic compilation of three-panel comic strips featuring a couple in bed having various conversations. Topics range from their own quirks and relationship, to geeky and pop culture subjects.

I enjoyed the pro wrestling references, along with some nice nods to 80s pop culture. The material is slightly raunchy in places. There were some good jokes in here, although the instances of falling back on boob jokes felt a bit lazy.

Still, there was plenty of interesting material in here. I also liked the use of facial expressions. The book at first glance looks like it's the same art on every page, but there are actually some nice subtle bits of expression that bring the characters to life.

Rating: 6.5/10

Friday, May 23, 2014

Giant-Size Adventure #0

This is the first of the official Free Comic Book Day books that I'm reviewing this year.

Title: Giant-Size Adventure
Issue: 0
Publisher: Red Giant Entertainment
Date: May, 2014
Writer: Kevin Juaire, David Lawrence, Chris Crosby
Artist: Wilson Tortosa, Sebastian Cheng, Tina Francisco
Colorist: Katrina Mae Hao
Letterer: Zach Metheny
Editor: Brian Augustyn, David Lawrence

Flip book.

First story is The First Daughter, featuring the teenaged daughter of the (fictional; near-future) President of the United States as a superheroine.

Tasha's alien mentor/advisor sends her to Long Island and the site of a long-abandoned lab where a time-traveling menace is about to reappear.

But in the midst of the fight, Tasha discovers that she while she may be the First Daughter, she is not the first First Daughter to don a costume and fight monsters. In fact, thanks to some convenient memory-wiping, there have been a whole succession of First Daughters, even in the case of presidents who where believed to have never had children.

This sounds pretty goofy, but the shear awesomeness of Abby Lincoln just about makes up for it.

This was a fun book that didn't take itself too seriously, avoided sexualizing the female lead character, and presented an interesting character in the alien mentor, who showed enough hints of manipulation to make the reader question his status as a good guy.

Flip the book over and you've got Magika, a fantasy story about a world that closely resembles ours, well, aside from ogres and the like. Niko, a boy from Earth, has been living in Magika long enough to have made some friends. But when one friendship gets strained, Niko is led into a confrontation with a clan of apple-ogres.

This was a fun book, with gorgeous artwork, and the beginnings of some good character interaction.

Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Spectra #4

Another issue of the Spectra series that I picked up at the National Conference on Science Education. Artist Kerry G. Johnson found this review blog and was kind enough to send me issue #6 of the series as well as the trade paperback for #1-4, so expect some more Spectra reviews soon.

Title: Spectra
Issue: 4
Publisher: American Physical Society
Date: 2012
Writer: Rebecca Thompson
Artist: Kerry G. Johnson

When you have a teenaged superheroine living a double-life as a middle school student, the mean-girl story seems inevitable. Returning to school after summer vacation, Lucy Hene quickly becomes the target of mean-girl and social manipulator Tiffany Maxwell.

It doesn't help matters that Tiffany is an even match for Lucy on the swim team, or that Lucy's friends are taken in by Tiffany's charm.

But Tiffany has more up her sleeves than gossip and jealousy. She has a demon. Maxwell's Demon, to be precise. This is the monster that physicist James Clerk Maxwell described in his famous thought experiment on thermodynamics, and Tiffany's version is small, green, highly elusive, and several notches meaner than Tiffany herself.

Text introduction gives the basics on Maxwell's Demon. The story is mostly teen drama leading up to the impish imperilment at the climax. Lucy's friends continue to be pretty fickle with their loyalty, but it is all resolved nicely in the end.

Tiffany is the most effective villain so far in this series, and this issue had a more serious level of danger to the characters.

Rating: 6.5/10

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Civil War: Dr. Hawk's Diary #1

Here's a historical minicomic that I picked up from Marek Bennett at MeCAF.

Title: Civil War: Dr. Hawk's Diary
Publisher: Marek Bennett
Issue: 1
Date: 2013
Writer: Marek Bennett
Artist: Marek Bennett

This minicomic comes from Marek Bennett's Live Free & Draw series of comics on New Hampshire history.

The comic is adapted from the diary of Esther Hill Hawks, one of the first female doctors in the United States. After finding herself not allowed to join in the war effort as an army doctor or nurse, she volunteered to work for the National Freedmen's Relief Association, working to help former slaves in South Carolina.

The story, using words taken from referenced primary sources, begins with Dr. Hawks' voyage South via New York City in 1862. Caught in a storm off of Cape Hatteras, Esther and the other women of her mission deal with seasickness as a ship that was never meant for ocean travel taking on alarming quantities of water.

When she finally arrives in the Carolinas, Esther finds her adventures have just begun.

Great true story about a fascinating historical figure.

You can read this entire comic (with a full color cover!) online here.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Zombie Romance's Live Drawing Mini Artzine #1

On the agenda: Comics purchased at MeCAF, comics from FCBD, and comics from the National Conference on Science Education. Plus the usual backlog. Trying to make a push to post every day to at least get through the books from these recent events.

With that in mind, here's a minicomic I got yesterday at MeCAF.

Title: Zombie Romance's Live Drawing Mini Artzine
Issue: 1
Publisher: Kristilyn Stevenson
Date: 2012
Writer: Kristilyn Stevenson
Artist: Kristilyn Stevenson

Full-color folded quarter-sized collection of portraits of Boston-area musicians performing. The subjects include Courtney Swain, Gem Club, Gene Dante, Edrie Edrie, Mali Sastri, Vending Machetes, and Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band.

The portraits all represent performances that the artist attended in 2012, and the sketches were done live on-site.

This is a fun project, and an interesting slice of the Boston music scene. The vivid colors really bring the art to live.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bandit Mountain

I just got back from the Maine Comic Arts Festival with a small stack of comics that I am looking forward to reading and reviewing. I'll start with one I had a chance to read at the show.

Title: Bandit Mountain
Publisher: Sarah "Chu" Wilson
Date: 2013
Writer: Sarah "Chu" Wilson
Artist: Sarah "Chu" Wilson

Eight- page half-sized b/w minicomic. Adapted from one of Aesop's fables, but with human characters.

When a knight needs a guide through a treacherous mountain pass, he makes a bandit girl an
offer she can't refuse. Unfortunately for the knight, the consequences of underestimating an
opponent on Bandit Mountain are pretty harsh.

Simple story, but very effective.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Our Last Convention For A While

This Sunday (May 18, 2014), Dandelion Studios will be appearing at our last show, at least for the foreseeable future.

As mentioned here before, I’ve taken a teaching job in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and we’re excitedly looking forward to new adventures on the other side of the planet.

We’re going to be moving all of our Dandelion Studios comics publishing activities online, and we are expecting to be off the convention circuit for at least two years. Of course, anything is possible, so you may see us show up at an anime con somewhere in Asia, or at a show back in the USA if we end up coming home for our summers.

But we are treating this coming weekend as our farewell show. The event is MECAF, the Maine Comics Arts Festival in Portland ME, and it’s consistently been one of our favorite shows.

It features exclusively small press/independent talent, and adult admission is a mere $5. If you are anywhere near Portland this weekend, and you are at all geekily-inclined, this is the best deal for your money, barring none.

Guests of honor are Kazu Kibuishi of Amulet, Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper, Zach Giallongo of Ewoks: Shadow Over Endor, and the creator of one of my favorite recent comic series, Jimmy Gownley of Amelia Rules! Volume 1: The Whole World’s Crazy.

So, come to Portland this Sunday and stop by the Dandelion Studios table to check out all of our comic titles, plus a full selection of plushie giant spiders and (not technically giant) narwhals.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Superman #205

Time was tight for me on Free Comic Book Day this year, with two family events occupying most of the day. I only managed to get in a brief visit to one comic shop, which was New England Comics in Quincy MA.

NEC always puts on a huge event for FCBD. They had the creative team of one of the new Tick comics on hand, and a picked up an autographed book from them along with some of the regular FCBD books. NEC also gives away some bonus comics, which are regular back issues they have overstocked. This is one of those bonus freebies that I picked up this year.

Here is my complete haul:

And now for tonight's review!

Title: Superman
Issue: 205
Date: July, 2004
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Penciler: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Nick Napolitano
Editor: Casey Seijas, Will Dennis, Eddie Berganza
Cover: Jim Lee, Scott Williams

This is a fairly introspective and quiet issue, with even the opening action scene proving to be a flashback. It focuses on Father Leone, who Clark (as Superman) has been turning to for spiritual advice.

Clark is struggling in the aftermath of a recent attempt to stop the fighting in an unnamed and mostly-symbolic Middle Eastern country. As might be expected, Superman's paternalistic approach of taking away everyone's weapon and scolding them to just get along proved to be an ineffective approach.

Not much was resolved here. This story raised more questions than it answered, and it only presented a very simplistic scenario in response to the rather complex question of whether Superman can literally function as the world's policeman.

In spite of the lack of easy answers (which was, to a large extent, the point), I enjoyed this issue. There was good character development for Father Leone, who is a fairly complex and interesting character. I also liked seeing Superman take some time to think about the consequences of his actions.In a comic book universe where there are few things Superman is not capable of accomplishing, it was interesting to see the focus on something that he is preceiving as a shortcoming.

Interesting read.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Miracleman #2

I was on vacation last week, and I set aside Saturday for some geeky wanderings. In the late afternoon, I stopped in at a friend's place for a horror movie party he was throwing. From there it was off to the Magic: The Gathering prerelease tourney for the new Journey Into Nyx expansion set.

But earlier in the day, I stopped by New England Comics in New Bedford MA, where they were having one of their big sales.

I picked up some Magic cards and supplies, as well as this comic.

Title: Miracleman
Issue: 2
Date: March, 2014
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: The Original Writer, Mick Anglo
Artist: Garry Leach, Don Lawrence, Mick Anglo, Steve Dillon, Alan Davis, Paul Neary
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Editor: Axel Alonso

The main feature here is the reprint of Miracleman #2, itself a reprint from early issues of Warrior magazine. It's written by Alan Moore, credited here once again as "The Original Writer". The story introduces Johnny Bates AKA Kid Miracleman, now grown to adulthood, rich, powerful, and thoroughly evil. Mickey Moran is great here as he sees through Bates' suave lies, but Bates as the villain absolutely steals the show. Bates is the best rendition of the Superman-gone-bad concept ever, and this issue is just a taste of what is to come.

The writing has a poetic quality to it that really brings up the intensity level.

Following the main story is an flash-forward segment that appeared in Warrior, but I'm not sure if it was printed in the Eclipse Miracleman series. It's a time travel piece set in the midst of the battle against Kid Miracleman later in the series, and it flashes back to earlier events. It had some good moments, but will probably make more sense to reread later on.

Bonus features in this issue include a "Behind the Scenes" segment showing original pencils and b/w artwork by Gary Leach for the story as it first appeared in Warrior.

There is also a full Marvelman origin story from 1954, which was quite good in places, but also leaned a bit on the typically goofy side. Last up is a short Kid Marvelman story from 1955, which is definitely goofy, and features Kid Marvelman helping out some local kids and improving the attitude of a cop.

The reprint material is fun, and the main story continues to be awesome.

Rating: 8.5/10

Friday, April 25, 2014

Magic: The Gathering: Path of Vengeance #2

Today I found myself in Fall River MA and stopped in at Stillpoint Comics, Cards, & Games.

I picked up this MTG comic along with a few booster packs.

Title: Magic: The Gathering: Path of Vengeance
Issue: 2
Date: January, 2012
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Matt Forbeck
Artist: Martin Coccolo, Chris Evenhuis
Colorist: J. Edwin Stevens, Baileigh Bolten, Noris Sola
Letterer: Tom B. Long
Editor: Carlos Guzman
Cover: Ryan Pancoast

You know the drill. Bought it for the promo card (A lovely version of Voidmage Husher).

This is issue #2, but it may as well have been issue #1. The story was easy enough to figure out.

Planeswalker and thief Dack Fayden is being hunted down by the Rakdos Guild, while he himself is on the hunt for evil planeswalker Sifa Gent. The trail has led Dack back home to Ravnica, where his network of safehouses has apparently been compromised by, well, pretty much everyone.

Dack's old rival, Maytov, is injured in the mayhem that follows, and Dack spends a few pages musing on how he and Maytov first met while in the present, Dack has decided to get Maytov to a healer. Once there, Sifa's evil plan is figured out and it's up to Dack to not only get his revenge, but also possibly to save all of Ravnica.

This story moved the plot along without all that much actually happening. It spent a great deal of time telling, rather than showing, and the whole issue felt like a big infodump to set up the climactic battle. I do continue to like Dack as a character. He is thoughtful and fun. I also thought the flashback sequence had some good moments.

On a side note, couldn't they have come up with a more interesting name for the Mcguffin that starts this whole mess than the "Ancient Fang"?

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spectra #3

Third in this educational series from the American Physical Society. Picked this one up a couple of weeks back at the National Conference on Science Education.

Title: Spectra
Issue: 3
Publisher: American Physical Society
Date: 2011
Writer: Rebecca Thompson
Artist: Kerry G. Johnson, David Ellis, Nancy Bennett-Karasik
Colorist: Kerry G. Johnson

There's a new physics teacher at Nikola Tesla Junior High School (!), and it's the uncle of Lucinda's best friend Ruby. He's known as General Leslie J. Relativity, and he's an ex-military man who hands out sets of pushups to students who aren't up to speed on the theory of gravity.

He's also involved in some secret experiments, and when he discovers Lucinda's laser superpowers, he's eager to have her change into Spectra to test his theories about the effects on light of the gravity extremes of white and black holes.

Lucinda, meanwhile, is hoping to escape from the gravity experiment in time to make it to a school dance.

This story is not as coherent as it could be. There is a seemingly random obstacle course of physics-related traps that the heroes need to overcome at the end, and it doesn't really have rhyme or reason for existing. General Relativity (I see what you did there.) is also a bit unclear in his intentions and motivations.

That being said, I still enjoyed the interaction between the characters, and the book continues to do a nice job of portraying a female superhero. Just the fact that it is consistently passing the Bechtel test and isn't turning Lucinda into a sex object is a nice change from, well, just about everything that the major publishers do. Physics idea continue to be scattered in, not to the point of drowning the story in educational content, but enough so that you can learn some facts and have a few concepts reenforced by reading the comic.

Rating: 6/10


Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Another item I picked up at Anime Boston from fellow Artists Alley participant Finni Chang.

Title: Sun-Flower
Publisher: Finni Chang
Date: 2013
Writer: Finni Chang
Artist: Finni Chang

This is a full-color sketchbook from artist Finni Chang. It opens with a 24-hour comic detailing a typical twenty-four hours in her life as a freelance artist in humorous style. From there, the book presents a range of gorgeous character illustrations with a scattering of other features.

This is mostly original characters. There is some Gaia Online work, and a three-page Pokemon fan comic, but the focus is on original characters, and there are some fascinating ones. Finni does awesome costume illustration, and her use of color is spectacular.

She also includes some sketch work with accompanying text to give some insights into her technique. For the most part, though, the art speaks for itself.

Rating: 8.5/10

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spectra #2

More laser-powered educational comic goodness from the American Physical Society. This is part of the stack of educational comics I brought home from the National Conference on Science Education.
Title: Spectra
Issue: 2
Publisher: American Physical Society
Date: 2010
Writer: Rebecca Thompson
Artist: Kerry G. Johnson

It's rematch time between Spectra and Miss Alignment, but first, Lucinda needs to make amends with her friends after having a bit of an issue with her newfound laser powers going to her head.

She also gets a ghostly mentor, the ghost of pioneering laser physicist Irnee D'Haenens. This issue gets a bit more educational content, but it flows pretty smoothly.

The confrontation between Spectra and the villainous Miss Alignment feels a little bit like too much of a repeat of the climax from the first issue, but it does go to a decisive finish this time.

This series still seems to be trying to find its stride as it experiments with getting the right mix of physics content, character development, and plot.

I did like the "if it weren't for those meddlesome kids" line that got thrown in at the end. Cute touch.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spectra #1

Did I mention that I got a bunch of comics at the National Conference on Science Education last week? Here is one of them.

Title: Spectra
Issue: 1
Publisher: American Physical Society
Date: 2010
Writer: Rebecca Thompson
Artist: Kerry G. Johnson

High school student Lucinda Hene suddenly develops laser-themed superpowers. She experiments with her powers and dreams of using them to save the world. Little does she realize that there there is a costumed supervillain lurking a lot closer than she expects, and she will soon need her powers to save her best friends.

This had a nice Archie Comics vibe to it. There was plenty of laser terminology thrown around, but story took precedence over education in this book. No much was explained when it came to the origins of Lucy's powers, and some of those powers were a bit goofy (she can make music by holding a CD; because well, everyone knows that CDs are played using lasers). I also found the villain's motives to not be as clear as they could have been.

That being said, I loved the fact that this book avoided the gender cliches that would normally be seen with a comic featuring a teenaged female superhero. Her costume looks great, and is practical and non-sexualized. There is a really good balance of genders among the cast too. Why do I need to turn to an educational comic from the American Physical Society for this to be the case? Get with the program, comic industry.

This didn't have the best flow to it, and the action was fairly toned down, but it accomplished its mission of being entertaining while at least providing some laser-related vocabulary to satisfy its educational mission.

The characters were fun and I look forward to reading more of their adventures. Which is good, because I have several more issues to review this week.

Rating: 6.5/10

Sunday, April 6, 2014

My Escape

I picked up a surprising amount of comics at the National Conference on Science Education this past week, but I am still also doing reviews of some of the books I brought home from Anime Boston. This one comes from a person I've had the pleasure of working with on some of my own comics.

Title: My Escape
Publisher: Missy Pena
Writer: Missy Pena
Artist: Missy Pena

Artist Missy Pena describes this 40-page full-color sketchbook as "a collection of sketches done in my free time, whenever I felt like I needed an escape from the real world." My Escape is a full color journey told in characters, setting, fashion, and magic.

In between the artwork, Missy give short insights into her techniques, her influences, roleplaying games, and fan art.The artwork features original characters with a bit of fanart from Legend of Korra and Assassin's Creed.

This is a beautiful book, and a great celebration of fantasy as a genre, and of the look and style of the fantastical.

Rating: 8.5/10

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Physics Quest 2008: Nikola Tesla and the Electric Fair

I attend a lot of Geeky conventions, but only a few are specifically related to my day job. This week, I attended one such event. The National Science Teachers Association was in Boston this week hosting their National Conference on Science Education. In addition to getting to do workshops with companies like Flinn, Carolina, Vernier, and Texas Instruments, and attending lectures by Bill Nye and actress/neuroscientist Mayim Bialik, I got to wander the huge exhibitors hall and collect a couple of bags worth of samples and freebies. You can read more of my adventures at the convention here.

Among the goodies I brought home were several comics, which I'll be reviewing here in addition to the remaining items I picked up at Anime Boston.

Title: Physics Quest 2008: Nikola Tesla and the Electric Fair
Publisher: American Physical Society
Date: 2008
Writer: Rebecca Thompson-Flagg, Christopher DiScenza, Justin Reeder, Kerry G. Johnson
Artist: Kerry G. Johnson
Editor: Alan Chodos

Designed as a middle-school level introduction to the work of Nikola Tesla, this comic begins with Tesla's arrival in America and his early work with Thomas Edison's company. After Tesla's falling out with Edison, Tesla eventually finds himself employed by Edison's great rival, George Westinghouse Jr. The "Current War" between Westinghouse and Edison would eventually decide whether America would be lit by alternating or direct current, and the decisive battle over the two competing systems would be fought at the 1893 Worlds Fair in Chicago.

While the story, by necessity, leaves out many aspects of Tesla's life and work, it does a nice job of presenting a cohesive story that introduces some important ideas about electricity, whirl introducing readers to several of the interesting historical figures of the late 19th Century. Mark Twain even makes an appearance.

Simplifies for the target audience, but still a good piece of science history that should get a smile out of steampunk enthusiasts as well.

Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lost Nova: Ghillies And Bastards

A traditional-format comic I picked up at Anime Boston.

Title: Lost Nova: Ghillies And Bastards
Publisher: Lost Nova
Writer: Stephanie B.
Artist: Stephanie B.

This is the second volume of Lost Nova, collecting the webcomic of the same name.

Pyrena heads to sea with Vera, but very quickly comes to doubt her decision to run away from home, especially as the crew of the ship that will be her new home begin to make their first impressions.

Once again, I really enjoyed this story, particularly for the pacing and the character development. Pyrena's moments of doubt and panic ring true, and the crew of the Odalisque are quirky and fun. Pyrena has great expressions and reactions to what she sees and experiences.

This is still in the early stages plot-wise, but the potential is there for it to be a wonderful nautical-flavored epic.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ladies of Literature Volume 1

I picked this book up in artists alley at Anime Boston. Technically an art zine, rather than a comic. Reviewing it anyway.

Title: Ladies of Literature
Issue: Volume 1
Publisher: Arielle Jovellanos
Date: 2013
Editor: Arielle Jovellanos, Janet Sung
Artist: Trung Le Nguyen, Amanda Scurti, Yssa Badiola, Alex Bahena, Grace Fong, Karina McBeth, Laura MacMahon, Kirsten Sjursen-Lien, Pablo Leon, Xiao Li, Erica Chan, Katrina Richter, Andy Lee, Abigail Malate, Chantal El-Bikai, Viktoria Ridzel, Rachel Royale, Jackie Yang, Jenny Xu, Desiree Surjadi, Michelle Hiraishi, Penny Candy Studios, Lily Pfaff, Lily Luo, Brigid Vaughn, Kristen Acampora, Amelia Chia, Grisselle Rivera, Diana Huh, Katy Farina, Janet Sung, Kristen Davis, Emily Ho, Arielle Jovellanos, Ava Nguyen
Cover Lettering: Paulina Ho

 This is a benefit zine collecting artists' interpretation of, well, exactly what the title suggests: Female characters (and a few female authors) of all genres of literature.

I loved the diversity of the characters covered here. Everything from Greek mythology to Shakespeare to Jane Austen to current hits like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter to childrens books. It was particularly awesome to find some of Tamora Pierce's characters here. There was a character from Battle Royale, and the same artist also did a character from one of the Animorphs books. Other authors represented included Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, C.S. Lewis, Hans Christian Andersen, Phillip Pullman, Roald Dahl, Sue Monk Kidd, and Diana Wynne Jones.

The interpretations showed a great diversity of styles, and were a lot of fun to see.

I loved so many of these, but Katy Farina's rendition of Molly Weasley was completely made of win. A couple of other favorites were Katniss Everdeen by Laura MacMahon, the characters from Tamora Pierce's Tortall books by Grace Fong, and Virginia Woolf's Orlando as depicted by Kristen Davis.

This was a lovely book and I look forward to the second volume.

Rating: 8/5/10

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Rival Angels: Rookie Year Volume 3

I'm reviewing live from Anime Boston 2014! Sitting here at my table in Artists Alley (Table #43 if you're at the con! Come up and check out our comics!), while I review the first of several items I've purchased here at the con.

Title: Rival Angels: Rookie Year Volume 3
Date: 2011
Publisher: Rival Angels
Writer: Alan Evans, Justin Riley
Artist: Alan Evans, Lora Innes
Colorist: Dustin Yee, Aaron Daly
Cover: Lora Innes
Back Cover: Sarah Ellerton

This is the third trade paperback collection from the Rival Angels webcomic, which tells the stories of four women trying to make names for themselves in a WWE-style womens pro wrestling league.

The focus of this volume is on the frie
ndship between babyface rookie Sabrina Mancini and rookie heel Sun "Lil Dragon" Wong. When Sun joins heel faction Damage Inc., their friendship gets strained to the breaking point.

In the ring, the "main event" of this volume is Sabrina's semi-final match in the ongoing Television Championship tournament and the continuation of Sabrina's feud with Chloe DeSade's Hell's Belles group.

As with the first two volumes, writer/artist Alan Evans's love and knowledge of pro wrestling shines through with tons of familiar moves, classic wrestling tropes, and a good sense of match pacing and booking. I also enjoyed the geeky references and one-liners in the dialogue.

This volume also does a lot of work expanding the subplots happening both in the ring and outside. There is a lot going on here, and it sets up plenty of future twists and turns.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spider-Man, Storm, And Power Man

Public service comic from the 1980s. From the backlog. No idea where I picked this one up.

Title: Spider-Man, Storm, And Power Man
Date: 1982
Publisher: Marvel Comics, American Cancer Society

This is a public service comic co-published by Marvel and the American Cancer Society as part of an anti-teen-smoking campaign.

Before I get further into the review, let me mention that none of the creative team on the book are credited, which is something I absolutely hate to see. Fortunately, this isn't as common now, but it is still worth mentioning. There wouldn't be a comic without writers and artists. Is it really that difficult to spare a bit of space to give them credit? Stan Lee's name still manages to get prominently featured, of course.

On an unrelated note, why is it that Spider-Man's name has a hyphen but Power Man's doesn't? Just wondering.

So, on to the story. Bret, a star track athlete, has fallen in with a bad crowd and picked up some bad habits, including smoking cigartettes. Luke Cage is the volunteer coach for Bret's team and there is a big relay race coming up.

Cage is concerned about the group that is influencing Bret and follows him to the local hangout where some fairly stereotypical mobsters are engaged in mobster type activities. Spider-Man and Storm get involved. I am guessing that this is happening on a week when Galactus and Magneto are not, in fact, threatening the world, and there are no major Marvel crossover events going on.

Storm finds the secret lair of the bad guys and is immediately knocked out and captured by their supervillain leader Smokescreen (yeah, you had to know that there was going to be a goofy villain with a smoke theme). At least she does self-rescue later in the story.

The ending has Bret trying win the race while the superheroes take down the, um, evil gambling ring that is betting big money on high school track meets. Oh, and the book clearly shows Bret lining up to start the race and the starting gun goes off, and later cuts to him making a final push for the finish line. Last time I checked, the same dude is not supposed to both start and finish a relay race. Just saying.

But this book is not about continuity! It is about smoking! The discussions of the effects of smoking on the body are incorporated into the narrative about as well as could be expected. There are a couple of quick quiz type activities along with the main story. And aside from a few of the goofy bits like Smokescreen's name and gimmick, the book does not get overly preachy. I don't think anyone is going to smoke or not smoke just on the basis of having read this comic, but it manages to be relatively true to its purpose.

And also, given what the book was, it did manage to put together a reasonably entertaining story.

Rating: 5.5/10

Oh, and don't smoke!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Poser #1

A superhero comedy minicomic from the backlog.

Title: Poser
Issue: 1
Publisher: Radical Warren
Date: 2008
Writer: Radical Warren
Artist: Radical Warren

Full-color minicomic. This is a raunchy black comedy set in a world where superheroes and supervillains have spontaneously appeared and it's illegal for any normal civilian to interfere with them or attempt to imitate them. The main character likes to (illegally) dress up in a cape, and he accidentally kills a villain and is mistaken for a new superhero.

Minimalist storytelling and some amusing superhero and villain concepts work well here, but the plight of the main character is what really hooked me. 

Solid start with a bunch of clever ideas.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Durga The Geomancer: Free Preview

Another quickie preview book from the backlog.

Title: Durga The Geomancer: Free Preview
Publisher: Creative Impulse Entertainment
Date: 2008
Creators: Jan C. Childress, Kevin Thomas

A young woman in New York City chats with her mother, discussing the daughter's odd ability to predict the weather and natural disasters.

Meanwhile something shifts deep beneath the Atlantic, and a government agency receives a tip that an old case file has reopened.

I was amused by the political prognostication of this title, written in 2008 and featuring a future where Hillary Clinton is President and Barak Obama is Vice President.

In all seriousness, though, the dialogue between Maya Simone and her mother at the beginning of this preview felt natural and managed to avoid most of the obvious cliches. The story did a nice job of building tension while sprinkling in enough background to keep it interesting.

The ending seemed a bit sudden, and it would have been nice to get a bit more of a taste of the mayhem which appears to be on the way.

But all in all, this felt like the beginning piece of a pretty engaging story.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, March 17, 2014

Horatio's Odyssey: Avenging His Loss

From deep in the backlog.

Title: Horatio's Odyssey: Avenging His Loss
Publisher: East 4th Productions
Date: 2008
Writer: Robertson Tirado
Design: Donovan Burgess

A story of organized crime and revenge in New York City. With aliens. Horatio, a former banker, uses the powers he got from an encounter with extraterrestrials to exact revenge on the mobsters who harmed his family.

This is a four-page ashcan-format promotional comic that serves as a teaser for the independent film of the same name. The art consists of photos with some digital manipulation. The colors look good and the photos are an effective way of showing off the look and feel of the film by means of a comic.

The writing in this teaser is a bit incoherent. I could figure out what was generally going on, but there was not much flow to it, certainly not enough to really grab my attention and get me curious about the movie.

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Dark Hunters: Exclusive Collector's Booklet

Here's one I've had sitting around in the to-be-read pile for a while. This was a promotional item I believe I picked up at the 2008 New York Comicon.

Title: The Dark Hunters: Exclusive Collector's Booklet
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Date: 2008
Writer: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Artist: Claudia Campos

This is a manga series that ties in with Sherrilyn Kenyon urban fantasy fiction. Actually, this particular book is a preview ashcan for that series.

Starting with a legend from ancient Greece of a powerful ruler and warrior who was betrayed and left to wander the Earth as an immortal creature of the shadows, the story quickly jumps to modern times and a woman who is trying her best to stay out of the way of her supernatural-connected family.

Unfortunately, supernatural entanglements have a way of being, well, entangling.

Nice dialogue, including a cute Anne Rice joke thrown in there. The action just gets going when the book goes to cliffhanger, but that's fine for a preview quickie like this. The witch-family seems amusing, and there are plenty of hints at the depth of the story to come.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Orchid #1

Bought this one when it came out in 2011. Finally got around to reading it. 

Title: Orchid
Issue: 1
Date: October, 2011
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer:Tom Morello
Artist: Scott Hepburn
Colorist: Dan Jackson
Letterer: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Cover: Massimo Carnevale
Editor: Jim Gibbons, Patrick Thorpe, Sierra Hahn, Dave Land

I went into this with high hopes for Tom Morello as a comic book writer. While I haven't listened to too much Rage Against the Machine, or The Nightwatchman, I have enjoyed Morello's collaborations with Bruce Springsteen, and he did have that time when he awesomely told off Paul Ryan in the pages of Rolling Stone. The guy is essentially a member of the E Street Band at this point, and so I feel some obligation as a huge Springsteen fan to give him props.

So I really wanted to like this. It had an awesome cover, by the way (actually, this is apparently the variant cover; regardless it's pretty awesome).

Unfortunately, that was about where my liking of it ended.

The story is set in a postapocalyptic world featuring a mostly submerged Earth (not explained, although there were vague references that the dumping of chemicals in the oceans was somehow to blame) inhabited my mutated animals right out of, well, right out of a postapocalyptic world. A postapocalyptic world writting in 1983 or so, that is. We're talking serious Gamma World style creatures.

So the setting is a bit goofy, although the plot, involving the last survivor of a failed rebellion on the run, seems to take itself completely seriously. The silly setting was not the main issue.

The main issue was misogyny, which is pretty much the unintentional main theme of the story here. Look, I get it. The setting is supposed to be horribly dystopian. The villains are supposed to be horrible human beings and we will cheer for them getting their comeuppance in a future issue. At least the readers who stick around long enough will. I will not be one of them.

Women forced into prostitution with the word "property" tattooed onto them was just too distasteful for me to want to continue reading this. That sentence was going to start with "Sorry, but". I'm not actually sorry. This story was loaded with violence against women, both implied and explicit, and it was woven into the society of the setting. It was done excessively, and unnecessarily for the purposes of the story Morello was trying to tell. That is not a story I want to read and it's not a series I want to support. No apologies.

I had a hard time finding any reason to care about the characters, even as horrible things happened to them.

Dystopia is a tough sell for me. I am not a fan of harsh and dark settings, but when I think of an example of a Dystopian story that I like, I realize that before The Hunger Games had fully revealed how truly terrible its setting and society were, the story had given reason to care about Katniss and several of the supporting characters.

All that Orchid gave me in the first issue was reasons to stop reading.

Rating: 2/10

Monday, February 17, 2014

GI Joe Vs. Transformers: Black Horizon #1

Another random comic from the backlog. No idea how I ended up with this.

Title: GI Joe Vs. Transformers: Black Horizon
Issue: #1
Date: January, 2007
Publisher: Devils Due Publishing
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Andrew Wildman
Colorist: Wes Ozioba, Art Lyon
Letterer: Brian J. Crowley
Cover Art: Mike O'Sullivan

Scorecard definitely needed here.

Basically, the setup is that there is a race of monstrous creatures living an a lost city in the Himalayas called Cobra-La. No, really.

Anyway, back in ancient times, they defended the Earth against Unicron. Well actually, what they really did was to negotiate to sell out the Earth to Unicron at a later date. Which has arrived.

Now it's up to Optimus Prime, Hawk, and Flint to stop them. Oh, and joining them is "G.I." Joe Colton, an original member of the Adventure Team, who has been held captive in Cobra-La since 1978, and who has conveniently just now figured out how to pick a lock.

There is also some other stuff going on. Destro is doing some generally evil things. Lady Jaye gets a cameo. Snake Eyes gets a cameo. Various other good guys and bad guys show up, and if you're really into this stuff, then it probably makes more sense than it did to me.

But even if you are really into this stuff, this story was still trying to do too much at once.

Rating: 4.5/10 (And now you know. And knowing is half the battle.)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Ravenstar Mini Zine

Another random minicomic from the backlog.

Title: Ravenstar Mini Zine
Publisher: Jessica Shea
Date: 2013
Writer: Jessica Shea
Artist: Jessica Shea

Minicomic preview of Jessica Shea's steampunk graphic novel.

A princess vanishes mysteriously from her room. Possibly kidnapped. Or possibly not.

There were only three pages of story here, plus a few pieces of concept art, so not a lot of plot to go on. The artwork was full color, with a watercolored look, and was quite lovely. I definitely like the look of this book and its characters.

It will be interesting to see where the full version goes with this setup.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ultimate Spider-Man Premier Comic #1

Random freebie book from the backlog.

Title: Ultimate Spider-Man Premier Comic
Issue: 1
Date: May, 2012
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Chris Eliopoulis, Paul Dini
Editor: Jordan D. White

This is a freebie-edition comic adaptation of the first episode of the Ultimate Spider-Man animated TV Show, which runs on the Disney Channel.

This is primarily a reboot. It doesn't cover the traditional origin story, although it does mention those events in several places. Instead, it is set about a year into Peter Parker's career as Spider-Man, and the main plot point is an offer for Spider-Man to join SHIELD.

This is very much set in Marvel's cinematic universe, and there are plenty of references dropped throughout the story.

I liked most of the characters in this. Flash Thompson comes off as a bit one-dimensional (though no more so than in his early appearances in The Amazing Spider-Man). But otherwise, the characters were fleshed out nicely. Even Aunt May was given some good details to work with.

The villains were the Frightful Four, and they were not particularly effective. Fortunately there were some bigger threats lurking in the background.

The book is illustrated with cells directly from the episode, and it's a bit hit-or-miss, especially in the fight scenes. There were a few moments in the climactic fight that really needed a big panel, and a few moments where it was hard to tell what was going on.

Rating 5/10

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Saga #1

Random comic from the backlog,. Turned out to be pretty good.

Title: Saga
Issue: 1
Date: March, 2012
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letterer: Fonografiks, Steven Finch
Cover: Fiona Staples
Editor: Eric Stephenson

Two star-crossed lovers, quite literally since they are on opposite sides in an ongoing interplanetary war, have a child together, and are now on the run from the forces of both sides.

This is definitely R-rated material, just to be clear. That being said, the opening scene was absolutely awesome, capturing the wonder of the birth of the baby without leaving out any of the mess and sprinkling in some spot-on humor.

The story gets the main characters on the run, establishes the background, and gives some insight into the villains from two different factions that will be pursuing them.

Both lead characters are flawed, possibly broken, but both come across as powerful personalities in their own ways. The baby get a bit of caption narration that adds flavor and serves to fill in a few details here and there. The world mixes gritty space opera with fairy-tale and mythological imagery. The two warring races could be described as traditional demons (one with wings, the other with horns, and their baby with both), but the culture they are part of is original and interesting.

The story and images go for shock value in a few places, which is usually a turn-off for me, but I was hooked into the story from the opening page, and I found myself enjoying it all the way through.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Rilo Kiley: More Adventurous

Well, yesterday was the first day I missed in 2014. Not a bad run to start the year.

Here's a minicomic that was sitting in the massive stack of unread comics, but probably didn't come from a comic show. I have a friend who did some work for the band Rilo Kiley in the early 2000s and I've been to one of their shows in New York, and I also went to see Blake Sennett's band The Elected in Boston once, so I'm guessing I picked this up from my friend or at one of those shows.

Title: Rilo Kiley: More Adventurous
Publisher: Sina Grace
Date: 2004
Writer: Sina Grace, Rilo Kiley
Artist: Sina Grace

This is a fan minicomic based on the almum More Adventurous by the band Rilo Kiley. It consists of a set of illustrated vignettes accompanying the lyrics of songs from More Adventurous. Some have complete lyrics and others just show a piece of the song with accompanying artwork.

The featured songs include "It's a Hit", "Does He Love You", "Ripchord", "Accidntel Deth", "Love and War", and "It Just Is".

A lot of the illustrations are reduced down to a pretty small size to fit the minicomic format, so some of the detail work gets lost, which is too bad because artist Sina Grace does a nice job with images that reflect the feel of the lyrics.

I only got to see Rilo Kiley perform once, but they were a lot of fun. This was a nice sample of their songwriting talents, combined with some good artwork. It's obviously going to have extra appeal for fans of the band, but I enjoyed this book just on the level of interesting words and pictures.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, February 3, 2014

Archipelago #2

Random minicomic from the backlog.

Title: Archipelago
Issue: 2
Publisher: Sharon Furgason
Date: 2004
Writer: Sharon Furgason
Artist: Sharon Furgason

Minicomic anthology of 1-3 page stories. The opening piece was a nice slice-of-life story about life in a family of junk hoarders. The other serious segment was a wordless comic that captured post-9/11 fears in an intense and emotional vignette.

In between were some shorter and more humorous comics, including the 10th grade latin teacher as one of the possible results of a nightmarish wheel of misfortune, the Pirates of the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Region, and a wonderful schematic of the artist's dream house.

This was a nice, eclectic mix and I loved the details work in the art. I also really liked the front and back covers.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, February 2, 2014

13 Assassin #4

No idea how I ended up with this. It's from TSR (the company that originally published Dungeons & Dragons) during their short-lived foray into comics. Let me assure you, there were reasons why it was short-lived.

Title: 13 Assassin
Issue: 4
Publisher: TSR
Date: 1990
Writer: Mike W. Barr, Scott Haring
Penciller: Robb Phipps, Frank Springer
Inker: Alfredo Alcala, Steve Mitchell
Letterer: Pete Iro, Teresa R. Davidson
Colorist: In Color, Les Dorscheid

So at some point in the early 1990s, among a number of bad business decisions, game publisher TSR (the folks who brought us D&D) launched a line of comics. This particular issue ties in with their espionage roleplaying game, Agent 13. Now if you played any roleplaying games in the 1980s, you might be saying to yourself, "Wait a minute. I thought that TSR's espionage roleplaying game was called Top Secret". Did I mention that TSR was making bad business decisions around 1990?

So this is a comic based on a game that pretty much no one ever played, and it includes a card-game tie-in that you can cut out and play, which I doubt that anyone ever did.

Two stories here. First up is the conclusion to the ongoing main story. It was complicated. There were disembodied spirits and various henchpersons involved, but basically it came down to a villainess named China White and a magical emotion-manipulating crystal that she finally got her hands on and planned to cause mayhem with. This alien artifact could be used to project emotions. For instance, when a group of soldiers try to arrest her at one point, she points it at them and gets them to start fighting each other. Following so far?

So her plan is to put the thing at the top of the Sears Tower and use it to make the whole United States emo. More so than it already is.

To illustrate this, there is a scene that is so unintentionally hilarious that it may have actually been intentional satire. If that was the case, my kudos to writer Matt W. Barr. It goes like this: In order to show that the gem is causing chaos, the scene cuts away to Washington and the Senate Subcommittee on the Environment, where the Senators are ripping up and burning the important paperwork they had been working on, making paper airplanes, and demanding booze and loose women.

Get it? Clearly the crystal has absolutely no effect at all on members of our government! Well, thank goodness for that, because the good guys weren't being to successful at stopping China White up to this point.

Eventually, 13 (the hero; I hadn't mentioned him so far because he's not very interesting) does indeed save the day, and it can be assumed that the Senate can go back to their normal business of making paper airplanes and demanding booze and loose women.

The backup story involves three people from different secret conspiracies all on the run together. Eventually they begin to suspect that this might all be one big conspiracy.

There were actually a lot more plot developments in both stories, including a few interesting moments and one pair of characters who were actually quite likable (a henchwoman who has fallen in love with one of the disembodied spirits), but so little in this was done effectively that the effort put into plot falls flat along with the rest of the book.

The game, by the way, is a card game of good and bad emotions that looked pretty simplistic, but had a fortune-telling vibe to it that was at least interesting in flavor.

TSR was heading toward serious financial problems when this was published. And this definitely was not helping them.

Rating: 3/10