Friday, June 17, 2016

DC Universe Rebirth #1

Second of a small stack of new comics purchased at Newbury Comics at the Cape Cod Mall, Hyannis MA.

Title: DC Universe Rebirth
Issue: 1
Date: July, 2016

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns

Artist: Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez, Joe Prado, Matt Santorelli

Colorist: Brad Anderson, Jason Wright, Gabe Eltaeb, Hi-Fi

Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano

Editor: Andrew Marino, Eddie Berganza

Cover: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson

This is DC's reboot of their previous reboot. Well, in some sense, it's just the latest reboot in a long series, but this reboot in particular is aimed at correcting some of the more unpopular aspects of DC's New 52.

As is typical for this type of event, this plays more for serious fans than for casual readers. In fact, in some sense, I am the target audience: A longtime fan of DC comics, who read the early New 52 issues extensively, but lost interest and am no longer reading current DC comics on a regular basis.

The narrator and main character here is Wally West, who was trapped in the Speed Force as a result of the Flashpoint (the triggering event for the New 52 reboot (and by "trapped in the Speed Force" what we mean is "written out of the current continuity"). No one remembers Wally West, and he is only capable of appearing on Earth for brief moments before being pulled back into the Speed Force. He's desperate to escape, and he has a warning to bring: Some unknown force has been tampering with time and space.

I'm not a huge fan of the Flash, but it was very clear from the writing that Geoff Johns is, and I have to say that he won me over by the end. This was a nice mix of nostalgia with some teases for future storylines.

There was also a surprise twist ending that came from so far out of left field, that it almost felt like DC Comics is trolling us. No spoilers here other than to say that it's definitely aimed at the serious comics fans. Your mileage may vary, but it worked for me in terms of 1) I really was surprised, and 2) I am intrigued to see where this is going.

Mission accomplished.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Batman: Rebirth #1

Look! An actual NEW comic! That's the result of being back in the USA with east access to comic stores for the next few weeks.

Since returning, I have...

1) Picked up a small haul of items purchased via crowdfunding sites in the past year (and shipped to a US address), A couple of graphic novels are among those items, and I'll be taking those back with me to Vietnam to read and review over the next year.

2) Visited Newbury Comics in Hyannis. Newbury Comics has a 50%-off sale on all standard-format DC comics right now, so I bought a few of the new Rebirth books to see what all the hype was about. Included in the purchase was the Rebirth special itself, but I ended up starting with the Batman tie-in (see below).

3) Retrieved a big stack of random unread comics from my storage unit. Lots of indie and minicomic titles in this batch. These will also be heading back to Vietnam with me to provide some reading/reviewing fodder. I also managed to get the whole batch bagged and boarded for travel.

I still have two conventions and lots of comic shop visits coming up on this trip, so I'm looking to add some more good reading material to the stack I take back to Vietnam with me. In the meantime, here's my review of an actual recent release!

Title: Batman: Rebirth
Issue: 1
Date: August, 2016

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Scott Snyder, Tom King

Artist: Mikel Janin

Colorist: June Chung

Letterer: Deron Bennett

Editor: Mark Doyle, Rebecca Taylor

Cover: Mikel Janin

So... Calendar Man.

Not exactly the most exciting villain to start off my Rebirth reading. That being said, the interpretation of Calendar Man here is what I would consider a valiant attempt at making the character interesting. He's found a way to accelerate the changing of the seasons in Gotham, and is attempting to unleash deadly spores on the city as soon as Spring rolls around. In four days.

There's also a fun scene with Lucius Fox including some insight into Thomas Wayne, plus the beginning of the career of the Batman's latest partner. Not a new Robin, but a new costumed identity entirely. I wasn't familiar with the character who will be under the mask, but he seemed interesting enough that I'd like to see more.

Not a bad start for Rebirth. But really, guys... Calendar Man?

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Grendel: Devil's Legacy #1

Another random comic from the unread comics stack.

Title: Grendel: Devil's Legacy
Issue: 1
Date: March, 2000
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Matt Wagner
Penciller: Arnold Pander, Jacob Pander
Inker: Jay Geldhof
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Letterer: Steve Haynie
Editor: Diana Schutz, Tim Ervin-Gore
Cover: Matt Wagner

This reprints Comico's Grendel #1 with new coloring by Jeromy Cox. The original publication was one of those early books I bought in my first run of seriously collecting comics in the 1980s. The story focuses on Christine Spar, granddaughter of the original Grendel, Hunter Rose. Comfortable in her life as a newspaper editor and the author of a book on her infamous ancestor, Christine is drawn into the legacy of Grendel when her son vanishes under mysterious and horrifying circumstances.

This story features one of the most disturbing villains in comics, a strong cast of supporting characters, and the looming presence of the Grendel mythology that Matt Wagner does such a great job of weaving into his multigenerational saga.

As good a read now as when I first read it. The first meeting between Christine Spar and Tujiro XIV is still as creepy as I'd remembered.

Rating: 8.5/10

The Tale of One Bad Rat #1

About 14 hours until departure. Reviewing marathon is in full effect in between the last of the packing and cleaning. This was in the random pile of unread comics. Don't remember where I got it.

Title: The Take of One Bad Rat
Issue: 1
Date: October, 1994
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Bryan Talbot
Artist: Bryan Talbot
Letterer: Ellie DeVille
Editor: Dick Hansom, Randy Stradley

A homeless runaway girl tries to survive on the streets of London, struggling to find someone she can trust while caring for her pet rat. The story unfolds amid visions and flashbacks to trauma she experienced growing up, and to a strange connection she has to Beatrix Potter and her stories.

Great characters and dialogue. A gritty story that doesn't need to go into excessive gore to make its point. And the Beatrix Potter references are intriguing.

Nice text introduction by Neil Gaiman.

Rating: 8/10

Inky Stories #4

This is a book I picked up from writer/artist David Marshall at MASSive Comic Con last June (looking forward to a second visit to that show in a few weeks!).

Title: Inky Stories
Publisher: Rotten Kid Press
Date: October, 2014
Writer: David Marshall
Artist: David Marshall
Colorist: Jesse Farrell

Two stories here. First up, Agent K, disguised as cosmic heroine Quasara, battles General Zaq and his army of flying laser-firing robot toasters. Unable to defeat the evil general on Earth, K takes the fight to a "Silver Age" dimension, where "every color dot is mine to command".

The real fun here is the art and storytelling styles used in the two realities, based on 1990s and 1960s Marvel Comics with loving attention to detail.

The story is humorous, with enough plot twists to keep it interesting, and the final punch-out of the obnoxious and over-talkative villain is quite satisfying.

The backup story is "Not Really Blade Kills Twilight", a gory bit of satire that is basically what the title suggests. There is a bit of a twist here too, but in some sense, if you're a non-fan of the Twilight Saga, it really won't matter. Excessive gore used for over-the-top dark comedy purposes isn't so much my thing, but this will still amuse many readers.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Swords of Sorrow #2 (Cover Variant C)

Another comic shop purchase from last summer. My review of the first issue of this series is here.

Title: Swords of Sorrow
Issue: 2 (Cover Variant C)
Publisher: Dynamite
Date: 2015
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Sergio Davila
Colorist: Jorge Sutil
Letterer: Erica Schultz
Editor: Hannah Elder
Cover: Robert Hack

I love the Frazetta-paperback-throwback look for this cover, including the "price tag".

With the swords distributed through the dimensions to the chosen warrior women, the question becomes how they will find common ground as the dimensional rifts keep throwing the characters together along with various elements of their respective worlds. You know, like hungry dinosaurs for example.

At least the language barrier won't be a problem. Apparently these Swords of Sorrow also function as babelswords.

The main focus here is on Red Sonja and Deja Thoris, who are rapidly emerging as the stars of this show. Their interaction is actually loads of fun, with good action mixed with dialogue. Gail Simone has an excellent grasp of the characters an great attention to detail for things like the varying gravity between Barsoom and Jasoom.

The plot is the biggest weakness so far. The villain is generic, and he does generic villain things like sending generic minions to attack the heroines, with mostly predictable results. Hopefully the story will dispense with these preliminaries in the next issue.

Rating: 5.5/10


Monday, June 6, 2016

Batgirl #40

The last of a three-issue run of Batgirl that I bought last summer at Double Midnight Comics in Manchester NH. My review of the previous issue is here.

Title: Batgirl
Issue: 40
Date: May, 2015

DC Comics

Writer: Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher

Artist: Babs Tarr, Cameron Stewart

Colorist: Maris Wicks

Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher

Editor: Chris Conroy, Dave Wielgosz

Cover: Cameron Stewart

Defeating Batgirl, murdering citizens of Gotham, and unleashing weapons of mass destruction? Turns out, there's an app for that.

Barbara confronts an out-of-control AI that's imprinted with her own brain patterns, and it's decided that Gotham isn't big enough for the two of them. It's also planning on stopping crime that has yet to happen through some strategic mass murder.

This was a solid conclusion, perhaps a bit too neatly wrapped up, but still loads of fun. Barbara employs some classic Star Trek tactics against her digital likeness, and gets a hand from Canary to deal with a fleet of ill-intentioned drones.

Good fun that wraps up a bunch of loose ends, and nicely transitions into a new chapter of Batgirl's story.

Rating: 7/10

Airboy #1

This first issue of Airboy is from around the time of my first introduction to serious comic collecting, when I used to head into Boston to the original Newbury Comics location to pick up my weekly subscription, mostly of 80s b/w books from independent publishers. Airboy was not a title I followed then, although I was aware of it, and I acquired this copy much more recently, although I don't recall the circumstances.

Title: Airboy
Issue: 1
Publisher: Eclipse Comics
Date: July, 1986
Writer: Charles Dixon, Timothy Truman
Penciller: Timothy Truman
Inker: Tom Yeates
Colorist: Ron Courtney
Letterer: Tim Harkins
Editor: Timothy Truman, Cat Yronwode

This series brings back the Golden Age war comics hero Airboy, the teenaged flying ace who appeared in Air Fighters Comics and his own title in the 1940s.

The new story sees the original character's son taking over the role, and operating as a vigilante, seeking revenge against his father's enemies. The plot of this issue is straightforward, jumping right into the action as assassins storm the monastery where sixteen-year-old Davey Nelson practices martial arts while his father watches from the seclusion of his office.

It's non-stop action from there, and by the time it's done the Airboy legacy has been passed to the new generation.

While not all that original in terms of plot, this was effective in introducing the characters while delivering plenty of mayhem.

The comic story is bookended by an excellent editorial by Cat Yronwode on the relationship between art and politics, and a prose history of the Airboy character and his comics in the 1940s.

Rating: 6.5/10

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Swords of Sorrow #1 (Cover Variant B)

Second review of the night! I bought this last summer (along with the second issue) at one of the comic shops I visited. This issue has a ton of cover variants. I bought the "Version B" cover, with beautiful art by Jenny Frison.

Title: Swords of Sorrow
Issue: 1 (Cover Variant B)
Publisher: Dynamite
Date: 2015
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Sergio Davila
Colorist: Jorge Sutil
Letterer: Erica Schultz
Editor: Hannah Elder
Cover: Jenny Frison

This is Dynamite's female-character crossover, written by Gail Simone. Red Sonja is really the central character, and it is her style and flavor that largely shapes this interdimensional fantasy story.

This issue is broken into a bunch of segments that introduce the various characters to the readers, who might not be reading their individual comics. Opening with Jana the Jungle Girl, the vignettes give us glimpses of Kato, Red Sonja, Dejah Thoris, Vampirella, Lady Zorro, and others.

I enjoyed getting reacquainted with characters I knew from the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, plus pulp and comics characters from the thirties through the seventies. The cast is fun, and Gail Simone's writing nails their personalities impressively, given the space limitations.

There is also some progress made on the overall plot, as the swords of the title are distributed, and we're introduced to the interdimensional power-players who are manipulating events that will eventually bring the diverse group of women together.

Considering how much is going on here, this reads pretty smoothly, although it does employ a lot of familiar tropes found in other multi-world crossover comics. There were some nice bits of subtle feminism (especially in the opening sequence with Jana), and a number of fun cliffhangers to get the various plotlines off and running.

The artwork is beautiful, and captures the styles of the different characters very well.

While it definitely had a similar feel to other crossover stories, Swords of Sorrow #1 did a good job with the small details, which will hopefully continue to distinguish it as the story progresses.

Rating: 6.5/10

Collateral Damage: The Manga

We leave for the USA just after midnight Wednesday night (Thursday morning, technically). That leaves the rest of tonight, and Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to get through the rest of the unread comics stack. Challenge accepted!

That's fifteen comics to go. Definitely doable.

Starting off here with a quick one. This almost certainly came off of a freebies table at a con, but I have no idea beyond that of where and when I acquired it.

Title: Collateral Damage: The Manga
Publisher: Gozer Games

This is essentially just an advertisement, in minicomic form, for the Collateral Damage boardgame, which is a game of fighting for control of cities amidst a background of familiar anime tropes.

The comic summarizes and illustrates the boardgame, taking the reader through the turn sequence. It does not give the complete rules in detail, but it does a
good job of getting the flow of the game across to the reader.

Aside from the fact that the game's romantic elements seem to be restricted to a cis straight perspective, the game sounds amusing and entertaining. The designers have a good feel for the flow of an anime story, and the game design looks good (as much as I could tell without actually playing),

The artwork is fun, with the expected anime visual clich├ęs in full display.

Since it really is just an advertisement, this minicomic doesn't do much in terms of story, but it does a reasonable job of selling the product it was meant to sell.

Rating: 5/10