Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Project Superpowers: The Death-Defying Devil: Free Comic Book Day Special Edition

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Project Superpowers: The Death-Defying Devil: Free Comic Book Day Special Edition
Publisher: Dynamite
Date: 2008
Writer: Alex Ross, Jim Krueger
Artist: Andy Smith
Colorist: Debora Carita
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Cover: Alex Ross

The Project Superpowers team goes over the origins and history of the Claw with some flashbacks to the Devil's battles against the Claw in World War II.

And... That's about it. There is some nice artwork in places, but the Claw's overall look is a bit too goofy for the threat that the Claw is supposed to represent. The whole issue is a big infodump that is not terribly interesting.

The fact that there are 12 pages of story and 18 pages of ads does not exactly help matters. Yes, I realize this is a freebie, but I was still left going "Wait? That's it?" when I got to the end of the actual content with half of the book still to go. Particularly since nothing had actually happened in the story aside from some background getting filled in.

There is obviously a well thought out world behind this story, and a large cast of characters. But the purpose of a promotional book like this is to get me wanting to explore that world and meet those characters. This had the opposite effect on me.

Rating: 2.5/10

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Fantasy Theater #18: Lady Spectra & Sparky

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Fantasy Theater: Lady Spectra & Sparky
Issue: 18
Publisher: United Fanzine Organization / Small Press Syndicate
Date: April 2007
Writer: J. Kevin Carrier, Jason Degroot
Artist: Akitaro Sugano, Dan Kellaway, J. Kevin Carrier, Dan Nauenburg, Ronson Butler, Allan Harvey, Dan Taylor
Cover: Will Terrell

The two main features in this half-sized minicomic anthology are both full Lady Spectra & Sparky stories, also available on the Lady Spectra & Sparky webcomic.

The first story features the Siren, a musical villainess who seems to have Spectra and Sparky's number when they first clash. But when her crimes are traced to a pop music star, Sparky has to deal with the fact that her favorite musician could be a secret supervillain. This had some fun plot twists, and the villain had enough powers and tricks to give Lady Spectra and Sparky a run for their money.

The second story went for more of an emotional punch. "Custody Battle" involved two high-powered politicians who conspire to put Lady Spectra on trial for child endangerment for her daughter's role as her superhero sidekick. This had a bit of family drama, a touch of political satire, and a bunch of cameos by past villains and supporting characters.

The webcomic pacing made both Lady Spectra stories feel a bit rushed when read in this format, but they were both fun, complete stories with some twists and turns before satisfying resolutions.

Backup feature was a guest-art gallery featuring fantasy heroine Glorianna.

Rating: 6.5/10

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #14

Another item from the unread comics stack. I seem to recall that I found this on the freebies table at ReaderCon last summer, but I could be mistaken on that.

Title: Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man
Issue: 14
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: January, 2007
Writer: Peter David
Penciller: Scot Eaton
Inker: John Dell
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: VC's Cory Petit
Editor: Axel Alonso, Michael O'Connor

This is in the midst of the Unmasked storyline, and the lead-up to Marvel
s original Civil War. Spider-Man's true identity as Peter Parker has become public knowledge, and Peter is dealing with the fallout from that.

This issue specifically focuses on his efforts to safeguard Midtown High School, now that his connections to the school have become known. Peter enlists the help of the Beast, and gains what effectively amounts to a major new power (in one of those annoying bits of plot that will undoubtedly be forgotten in a few months either with or without some token writeoff to reset things).

While that is going on, a classic Spider-Man villain returns to action, setting up a future confrontation. And Peter Parker also experiences some further repercussions in the form of the publication of a tell-all book by an ex-girlfriend.

This was loaded with excellent visuals, and it had a classic Spider-Man vibe to it. It made good use of a lot of moving parts and kept the story rolling smoothly. I wasn't a fan of some of the the out-of-sequence aspects of the storytelling. They weren't terrible; they just didn't feel entirely justified.

Considering I hadn't read much by Marvel from this time period, this felt reasonably comfortable, even with it being a jump into the middle of a major crossover storyline. But it was still something of a transitional issue, with bigger plot developments saved for forthcoming issues.

Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Wish Me Luck

From the unread comics stack. This is a minicomic by Boston Comics Roundtable, so I must have gotten this at one of many Boston-area conventions.

Title: Wish Me Luck
Publisher: Boston Comics Roundtable
Writer: Donna Martinez, Joseph Peters
Artist: Donna Martinez

Quarter-sized minicomic about a bellydancer and a man going through some relationship drama. There is a lot to be read between the lines here, in what is really just a small slice of a bigger story. The dancing sequence is the real highlight of this minicomic. It is lovely, and is some good, effective wordless storytelling.

A nice sample that left me interested in seeing what artist Donna Martinez can do if given a bit more space to work with.

Rating: 6.5/10

Monday, January 16, 2017

Blackest Night #0 (Free Comic Book Day Edition)

Back to the stack of random unread comics. Here's one of DC's Free Comic Book Day offerings from 2009, and the start of one of their big multi-book crossovers.

Title: Blackest Night
Issue: #0 (FCBD Edition)
Date: June, 2009
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Ivan Reis
Inker: Oclair Albert, Rob Hunter
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Editor: Eddie Berganza, Adam Schlagman

Blackest Night was one of those crossovers that felt like it had a ton of potential in the beginning, but (for me anyway) failed to hold interest as it stretched on and on. Since this is the #0 issue, this is still in that stage were the story intrigued me.

Most of this issue is a discussion between Hal Jordan and Barry Allen as they visit the Wayne family plot and talk about the nature of life, death, and resurrection as they have experienced it.

At this particular moment in the continuity, Bruce Wayne is dead at the hands of Darkseid and his Omega Beams (or, as I like to call it, the "dis that don't miss"). This would be a death that did not last long. Aquaman and Martian Manhunter are also apparently spending some time "dead in the DC Universe", so there is a lot of death to discuss between two individuals both fairly recently resurrected themselves.

Given all of the overarching silliness of this, the dialogue is actually quite good. There are some nice insights into both characters and into their relationship with the Justice League.

The dialogue ends and we segue into a tease of what is to come in Blackest Night, including a very awesome Black Lantern Oath.

Backup feature is a handy guide to all the different colors of lantern corps, featuring lovely illustrations and some basic info on each set of ring-followers.

This was very heavily invested in DC Universe continuity, but still managed to be enjoyable, if a bit on the grim side.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Fisso's World in Cambodia: Living in a Kingdom of Wonders

First review of 2017!

We ended 2016 with a trip to Cambodia (and began 2017 with another trip, this one to Bangkok, Thailand). While in Phnom Penh, I happened upon Monument Books in  the Aeon Mall, and picked up a couple of items of interest, including this collection of cartoons.

Title: Fisso's World in Cambodia: Living in a Kingdom of Wonders
Date: 2014
Publisher: Blue Reamker
Writer: Sophie Lizeray
Artist: Sophie Lizeray

This is a collection of cartoons about life in Cambodia, from a primarily expat point of view, that originally appeared in the Phnom Penh Post.

The cartoons cover topics ranging from traffic and driving to unreliable water and electrical power to early morning wedding music (something we definitely got to experience on our recent trip to Cambodia!). There bits about food, wildlife, markets, and the weather.

A lot of the scenes and situations were very familiar from my three years in Southeast Asia, and there were some good laughs at various points in this. A few of the cartoons fell flat for me, but as always, tastes in humor are going to vary. The artist's art style is fun, especially on animals.

This was a nice slice of Cambodian life and a good souvenir from our travels.

Rating: 6/10

Some Thai Comics

I've tried to pick up some local comics in each country I've visited since we moved overseas. Here are a couple of examples of graphic novels from Thailand, which was our first trip in 2017.

On the left is a horror comic aimed at a teen audience, published by Book Smile and distributed through 7-11 convenience stores.

On the right is a graphic novel biography/tribute to the recently deceased King Bhumibol of Thailand.

Both are in the Thai language. (I don't review comics in languages that I don't read).

2016 Recap

I read and reviewed 103 comics in 2016!

Top-Rated Comics I Read in 2016 (all tied with an 8.5)

All Star Superman #1: Free Comic Book Day 2008 Edition
Red Sonja Volume 2 #2: Larry's Comics Variant Cover
Thieves & Kings #42
Grendel: Devil's Legacy #1

Lowest-Rated Comic I Read in 2016 (3.5)

Superman #100

I have a big stack of unread comics to take me into 2017, and I'm going to set a goal of 150 reviews for this year. Looking forward to reading lots more comics in the coming months!