Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Owly and Friends Free Comic Book Day 2008

From the stack of unread comics, here's another Free Comic Book Day issue.

Title: Owly and Friends
Date: 2008
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Writer: Andy Runton, Christian Slade, James Kochalka, Corey Barba
Artist: Andy Runton, Christian Slade, James Kochalka, Corey Barba
Editor: Chris Staros

This 2008 Free Comic Book Day collection features Andy Runton's Owly as the main feature, with stories from three other all-ages comics.

Owly, an owl character whose dialogue consists of small pictures and symbols, is always cute and fun. In this installment, Owly is trying to find time to assemble a new picnic table in time for a picnic lunch with friends, but events keep getting in the way. The story is cute, although a bit long compared to other Owly comics I've read, and I have found that the shorter stories work better in Owly's format.

James Kochalka's Johnny Boo is the only story to use words as dialogue in this collection, and the story is a simple and funny one that was good for a few laughs.

Corey Barba's Yam had four different short stories in the book. Yam is more surreal than the others here, and I found it a bit hit-or-miss, although it had some very clever moments.

Finally, the highlight of the book for me was Christian Slade's "Bath Time" featuring Korgi, which was a beautifully illustrated and simple treat of a story. Especially recommended for dog-lovers!

I read this to my seven-year-old son, who enjoyed the book and seemed to get the most out of Johnny Boo.

This was fun and a nice look at some good kid-friendly titles that I might not have discovered otherwise.

Rating: 6.5/10

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Batman #570

Last summer, I packed some comics from a box in my storage unit that was labeled as "unread". I have a bad habit of buying comics at a faster rate than I read them, so I've got a fair amount of random comics in those unread comics boxes. I was in a hurry, so the comics I ended up taking with me to Saigon from that box really were pretty random and scattered. Within those, the biggest grouping was a run of Batman from 1998's Cataclysm and Aftershock storylines, and a couple from the epic that followed up on those, No Man's Land. This issue is the last of that batch. These have been enough fun that I may seek out some more from these crossovers when I get back to the US in June.

Title: Batman
Issue: 570
Date: October, 1999
DC Comics

Writer: Bronwyn Carlton

Penciler: Mike Deodato
Inker: David Roach
Colorist: Pam Rambo

Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Frank Berrios, Joseph Illidge, Dennis O'Neil

This takes place during the massive No Man's Land crossover, in which a disaster-stricken Gotham has been abandoned by the US government and left is a state of anarchy (as opposed to Anarky, who was at least mentioned in one of the Cataclysm issues that preceded this; so he'll probably show up sooner or later).

Cataclysm and Aftershock, at least in the issues that I've looked at so far, stayed away from using the heavy-hitters among the Batman's rogues gallery. Not the case here, as Joker and Harley Quinn are front-and-center, in a story where the Batman only appears in one panel. It's really Harley who's the star here. While looting the upper floors of a luxury apartment tower, she finds a self-help book called "The Code: Laws of L'Amour That Will Make Your Man Marry You". The book is subversively feminist and Harley's hands she begins to make changes in the whole dynamic of her relationship with her "Puddin".

The Joker, meanwhile, waffles between puzzlement and obliviousness as he trains a new henchman, a young intellectual named Josh, and makes plans to hold an election for leadership of Gotham, with himself as the lead candidate.

All of this is set against the block-by-block territorial battles raging in the No Man's Land, with various factions vying for control of scarce resources.

This was some fun character development for Harley Quinn, and a nice setup for coming conflicts between her and Mr. J.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Tiny Titans #1 (Free Comic Book Day Edition)

I have a lot of Free Comic Book Day editions in the stack of unread comics. Here is one from 2008.

Title: Tiny Titans
Issue: 1
Date: April, 2008
DC Comics

Writer: Art Baltazar, Franco

Artist: Art Baltazar
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Editor: Jann Jones, Stephanie Buscema

Cover: Art Baltazar

This book is split up into five short stories, plus a one-panel cartoon, a pinup page featuring the whole team, and a maze activity page.

The stories are humorous and cute, mostly aimed at the young audience, although there is a bit for the adult audience in a pretty clever parody of some of the recent controversies over changes in comic book characters traditional costumes.

I also thought that the wordless Beast Boy story was adorable.

Some of the other jokes fell a bit flat, although one gained a bit in its repetitive use and could be good as a running gag as the series continues.

The art style is very cute and straightforward, with the characters totally recognizable in these "cartoony" incarnations.

Nothing too groundbreaking here, but a fun kid-friendly book with a bit to get a smile out of any Titans fan.

Rating: 6.5/10

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Superman #100

From the random stack of comics, here's a milestone Superman book from 1995.

Title: Superman
Issue: 100
Date: May, 1995
DC Comics

Writer: Dan Jurgens

Penciler: Dan Jurgens
Inker: Brett Breedng, Josef Rubinstein
Colorist: Glen Whitmore

Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Chris Duffy, Mike Carlin

Cover: Dan Jurgens, Joe Rubinstein

I love "milestone" issues, especially involving historic characters like Superman. So this is the 100th issue of the Superman title that began following Crisis on Infinite Earths in the 1980s. It's got a holofoil cover (because it's 1995, after all; it also has a scene involving a brick-sized cell phone!), and the story is "The Death of Clark Kent".

While that would appear to be a play on the Death of Superman storyline, which also leaned heavily into gimmicky cover territory, this story plays out more like a much kinder, gentler version of Identity Crisis.

Villain Conduit, who just happens to be Clark Kent's old high school buddy Kenny Braverman, has figured out Superman's secret identity. And after a bit of teasing Clark Kent with the knowledge, Clark now knows that Kenny knows, and all of a sudden everyone in Clark Kent's life is in danger.

Or rather they would be, if it were not for the fact that Conduit seems to be utterly incompetent as a villain. The guy commands a private army equipped with military hardware, and his powers make him a match for Superman in a straight up fight, but yet he resorts to mailing people exploding champagne bottles, has his men surround Ma and Pa Kent's house and then wait to attack until Superman arrives, and can't even decide whether to spill the secret identity to a captive Jimmy Olsen.

Really, Conduit? Really?

In fact, the whole scene of Conduit blathering on and on to Olsen about "if you only knew what I knew about Clark Kent" and then not telling pretty much tells all the readers everything they need to know about this story. The status quo is in no danger here. And neither is Superman, or Clark Kent for that matter.

Just about the only redeeming bit in this issue is a reasonably well thought out scene between Superman and Lois Lane (in 1995 continuity, Clark and Lois are engaged and Lois knows Clark is Superman), in which Clark talks about the importance of his identity as Clark Kent and about the pride he takes in his news reporting and writing. More of that, please.

And less Conduit.

Rating: 3.5/10

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Batman #567

Skipping a few issues, and here we are in the midst of the No Man's Land mega-story.

Title: Batman
Issue: 567
Date: July, 1999
DC Comics

Writer: Kelley Puckett

Penciler: Damion Scott
Inker: John Floyd
Colorist: Greg Wright

Letterer: Todd Klein
Editor: Joseph Illidge, Darren Vincenzo

Cover: Damion Scott, Robert Campanella, Patrick Martin

This issue focuses on Cassandra Cain, and her father David Cain. David Cain is trying to kill Commissioner Gordon, while Cassandra is determined to prevent that from happening.

Meanwhile, the Batman is trying to decide what to do with a captive Harvey Dent in a world where there is no longer any "justice" for criminals to be brought before. 

I'm not really a Cassandra Cain fan, and I found the action to be choppy and not always all that coherent. I did like that they filled in a bit of Cassandra's backstory, although more questions were raised than answered.

GCPD officers getting killed off like Star Trek redshirts is a severely overused trope, and it gets thrown into this issue entirely unnecessarily.

Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Salem: Queen of Thorns: Free Comic Book Day Edition

From the random pile of unread comics, here's another Free Comic Book Day offering.

Title: Salem: Queen of Thorns: Free Comic Book Day Edition
Date: May, 2008
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Writer: Chris Morgan, Kevin Walsh
Artist: Wilfredo Torres
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Cover: Wilfredo Torres
Editor: Mark Waid

The setting is Salem, Massachusetts, in 1673, a setting that is more about flavor than historical accuracy. There's an attack by a demon on a family before we meet our (anti- ?) hero, wandering demon-slayer Elias Hooke.

After a bit of demon-slaying, we move to the human villains, standard overzealous inquisitor-types, in the process of trying to extract a confession from a woman accused of witchcraft (her actual issue appears to be atheism). As one of the clergymen begins to have second thoughts, there is Elias Hooke to break up the proceedings.

We end up with the good deacon, the accused witch, and Hooke in the woods, with supernatural forces closing in.

The best thing about this was Hooke himself, who's in interesting mix of trickery, supernatural lore, and a silent loner attitude. The supporting characters had potential, although the villains felt very generic.

As a Massachusetts boy, I was underwhelmed with this version of Salem, which felt a lot more like a fantasy setting than a historical (or even historical fantasy) one.

Rating: 5.5/10