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