Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Sleeplessness

Picked this one up from the writer/artist last summer at MASSive Comic Con in Worcester MA USA.

Title: The Sleeplessness
Date: 2016
Publisher: Fat Cat Funnies
Writer:Jay Kennedy
Artist: Jay Kennedy
Editor: Lindsay Moore

Full-color standard format 36-page horror comic. This is a classic horror tale set in a cursed and abandoned amusement park on an island off the coast of Maine.

Teenager Lukas Lein faces the impending death of the grandfather who raised him, the same man who was once part of a work crew constructing a private amusement park on an island for an eccentric and very wealthy recluse. The opening of the park ended in horrifying circumstances, and now Lucas makes the decision to go to the island to find one of the few remaining mementos of the parents who he never knew. With his grandfather dying of cancer, Lukas has only a short time before he will be leaving the country to live with his only other remaining relative.

Recruiting his two best friends for the expedition, Lucas finds himself confronting an ancient and demonic evil.

If you're a fan of scary clowns and mascots and creepy old theme parks, you will love the look of this book. The villain has a great vibe that is menacing and disturbing.

The interaction between the three friends is handled really well, and all three are likeable characters.

I did find the writing to be wordy, overly so in places, although part of that is an old-school goth ghost story flavor that the author is going for. It still could have done with a bit of trimming on the narration. The dialogue was quite good and did its job.

The ending is a nice bit of tragedy that packs an emotional punch without relying on the expected tropes for this type of story.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, February 25, 2017

World's Finest #159

And now for something a bit different. I got this comic at The Comic Shop in Randolph MA USA last summer. This is one of the oldest books I've reviewed. Older than me by two years, in fact!

Title: World's Finest
Issue: #159
Date: August, 1966
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Edmond Hamilton, Ed Herron
Penciller: Curt Swan, Lee Elias
Inker: George Klein, Lee Elias
Editor: E. Nelson Bridwell, Mort Weisinger
Cover: Curt Swan, George Klein

Some classic Silver-Age stuff here, including the Fortress of Solitude, the Bottle City of Kandor, and gold kryptonite!

In the main story, Perry White and Commissioner Gordon get tours of the Fortress of Solitude and the Batcave in preparation for a series of Daily Planet articles on the greatest foes of Superman and Batman. But shortly thereafter, a villainous duo known as Anti-Superman and Anti-Batman appear. They have powers to match those of the World's Finest, and seem to know an awful lot of the secrets of Superman and the Batman as well. To make matters worse, they've got their hands on a piece of gold kryptonite! (If you are familiar with Silver Age DC, the implications of that should be well, scary. I mean, except for the fact that it's Silver Age DC, where nothing ever had really scary implications.).

After some back-and-forth battles and a fair amount of investigation, the mystery, which proves to be very typical Silver-Age convoluted, is solved.

This was harmless fun, with Batman and Robin in full 1966-TV mode ("Holy Santa Claus!"), not to mention the full array of goofy Superman gimmicks. There are brief appearances by classic villains Toyman, Prankster, Penguin, and even the Joker, but these don't end up amounting to much. There's also an emotional moment involving Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, which still doesn't quite manage to raise the story beyond the level of silly.

The backup story was basically a parody of Green Arrow's ridiculous trick arrow gimmicks. Green Arrow and Speedy attend a circus where they meet a clown/impersonator who goes by the name of Green Error and does an act making fun of Ollie. Ollie takes the whole thing in good humor, but when robbers strike the circus, there is a mixup of equipment, and Ollie and Speedy have to use Green Error's even-more-ridiculous trick arrow gimmicks to catch the thieves.This dragged one joke out longer than it really needed to, but the basic idea was pretty funny.

A couple of other real gems here: A public service comic page reminding teenagers that "The Policeman Is Your Friend" (all the teenagers in the comic page were white; just sayin'.). And the letter column was wonderfully snarky, complete with bad puns and some good trolling of the letter-writers by the editors.

This was fun for the 60s flavor more than anything else. It's a good example of the kind of comics DC was making during this era, and it was amusing to read, even if I had to avoid trying to think too hard about the stories.

Rating: 6.5/10

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Death of Antisocialman Chapter 12 Preview Pages

A minicomic promo item from Matt Feazell, which I probably got at one of the SPACE conventions in Columbus OH.

Title: The Death of Antisocialman Chapter 12 Preview Pages
Date: 2007
Publisher: Not Available Comics
Writer: Matt Feazell, Walt Lockley
Artist: Matt Feazell, Walt Lockley

This is a four-page half-sized promotional minicomic previewing the long-awaited chapter 12 of The Death of Antisocialman by Matt Feazell and Walt Lockley.

Most of the panels presented here center on a frantic chase to get to the Obnoxico Corporation's company picnic. There is lots of bad driving, a truck floating down a river, and a map of Qatar, which is decidedly unhelpful.

Some of the individual panels are pretty amusing. I didn't get much sense of the characters from this preview, and only a pretty minimal idea of the plot. Since I'm familiar with Feazell's work, I know the kind of humor to expect, and this left me interested in checking out the full story. I feel like it might be a less effective promotional book for people who have yet to be introduced to the Cynicalman universe.

Rating: 5.5/10

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Love & Capes #7 Free Comic Book Day Edition

Another FCBD item that found it's way into the stack of random unread comics.

Title: Love and Capes
Issue: 7
Date: 2008
Publisher: Maerkle Press
Writer: Thomas F. Zahler
Artist: Thomas F Zahler

This was billed as a superhero sitcom. The main character is Mark, secretly the super-powered Crusader, and his girlfriend Abby. Abby is in on Mark's secret, and Mark is planning to ask Abby to marry him. Unfortunately, bad timing, unsolicited advice, and superhero business (not to mention Mark's own set of nerves) keep getting in the way.

The characters are a straight-up parody of the Justice League, with Mark as Superman. We also meet this story's answers to Flash, Wonder Woman, Batman, Atom (or Shrinking Violet!) and a Cyborg/Steel/Ironman type.

Really, though, this is more of a romance with some comedic moments than a spoof, and in that way, it does better than many attempts at superhero humor I've seen. The characters are very likeable (okay, Bluestreak is annoying, but that is kinda his thing), and the dialogue actually makes a lot of sense. The romantic elements of the story are great, especially the climactic bit.

This was a feel-good story with fun characters that felt real. The superheroics are kept in the background for the most part, and the comedy is character-based rather than a lot of outrageous sight gags, but I thought it really worked well.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, February 18, 2017

One Year in Indiana #0

A minicomic from the random unread comics stack. No idea where I got this one.

Title: One Year in Indiana
Issue: 0
Date: 2006
Publisher: Pungent Basement Comics
Writer: Kurt Dinse
Artist: Kurt Dinse

A death metal vocalist leaves his nomadic life to settle down with a college buddy, sharing a house in Indiana. There he begins to learn the mysterious laws of the land, starting with the one that prohibits the sale of alcohol on Sunday. He figures out he can hold out one night, but when he wakes up to a massive snowstorm, all of a sudden the need for a beer run has reached crisis proportions.

What follows is an epic journey across a snow-covered landscape filled with frozen fratboys, Star Wars references, and a yeti.

The was pretty entertaining, with some clever ideas and good timing on the jokes. The art style worked well with a bit of a 70s underground comix vibe. The good print quality for a minicomic helped too.

A nice self-contained story and a fun start to more adventures in Indiana.

Rating: 7.5/10

Viper Comics Presents: Kid Houdini and the Silver Dollar Misfits

From the unread comics stack: Another Free Comic Book Day book, this one from Viper Comics in 2008.

Title: Viper Comics Presents: Kid Houdini and the Silver Dollar Misfits
Publisher: Viper Comics
Date: April, 2008
Writer: Dwight MacPherson, James M. Burns
Artist: Worth Cowell, Erik Valdez Y Alanis
Colorist: Kevin Conley, Ramon Espinoza
Cover: Jack Lawrence

Two stories here, both involving teams of young characters in detective-style scenarios. In Kid Houdini and the Silver Dollar Misfits, the main character is a young Harry Houdini in the late 1800s, who has run away from home and (not entirely willingly) joined the circus, where he leads a group of young freakshow performers who solve mysteries for the price of a silver dollar.

Most of the story here is setup. It feels like there is a lot of potential, but there isn't enough space in this book to get much character depth, and the action of the story barely gets started before we move on to the second feature. It's still a fairly effective tease of the larger story to come.

The second segment is The Sleepy Truth, which is set in modern times and again features a team of child detectives. In this case they are more in the paranormal investigations line, and they get a call about a legendary lake monster that has a connection to their past. Once again, this is more hints of things to come than any substantive story, but there are some aspects of the story that held my interest.

Both features showed potential, but neither one was spectacularly impressive.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, February 6, 2017

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

From the Kiddo's Christmas haul. I just finished reading it with him.

Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
Publisher: Amulet Books (a division of Abrams; series website at
Date: 2009
Writer: Jeff Kinney
Artist: Jeff Kinney

This is the second book in Jeff Kinney's bestselling series. Like the rest of the series, it's prose with on average 1-2 accompanying cartoons per page.

The (somewhat loose) focus is on main character Greg Heffley's rocky relationship with his older brother, and the fact that his brother has some serious blackmail material that he's holding over Greg after discovering an embarrassing incident Greg was involved in over the summer.

There were some funny jokes here, and a nicely geeky nod to D&D, which was brilliant, although it ended a bit too abruptly.

A lot of the problems that I had with the first book remains. The characters, Greg included, are not really likeable, and at times Greg is straight-up cruel. While he usually gets plenty of repercussions for his actions, he doesn't seem to have much in the way of regrets, even when he's been engaging in outright bullying. Mostly, his regrets fall into the regret-getting-caught category. It's all done in a light vein, but there were a couple of moments that still had me cringing a bit.

There was a bit that I found particularly troubling, in which the concept of Greg sneaking into the girls locker room is treated as a heroic feat (even if he didn't actually do it). In this book, and in the other two that I read in the series, there is a tendency to dehumanize female characters, especially girls in Greg's school, who tend to be treated as mysterious "others" rather than fully-developed characters. The locker room bit did not help matters.

My son did enjoy the book, and I will credit Kinney's humor, and the format and pacing, with keeping my son interested in reading this, and kindling an interest in him reading the series on his own. He's come back to the first book to reread it frequently, and I expect he will do so with this book too. So in terms of engaging with the target audience, this has been a success. I just wish that, as the target audience's parent, I would have fewer cringe-worthy moments reading these.

Rating: 3.5/10

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Savage Dragon #148 (Free Comic Book Day Edition)

In an odd coincidence, I pulled this out of the random stack of unread comics, and it had an odd connection to my previous review.

Title: Savage Dragon
Issue: 148 (Free Comic Book Day Edition)
Date: May, 2009
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Erik Larsen
Artist: Erik Larsen
Colorist: Nikos Koutsis
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski

Savage Dragon's children have been kidnapped, and he teams up with Daredevil (the original golden-age superhero, not the Marvel version) to rescue them. Daredevil, in turn, recruits the Wise Guys, a team of scrappy street kids.

Since this issue was a 2009 Free Comic Book Day offering from Image, there is a four-page "The Story So Far" segment condensing the previous 147 issues down to less than 30 panels. It's a bit helpful, but it has a hard time smoothing out what has clearly been a pretty convoluted journey to the current point in the story.

Once the Daredevil crossover gets going, the story becomes pretty straightforward and easy to follow. Daredevil and the Dragon have a good vibe, working together without needing to fight each other first or have a lot of macho posturing. In fact, it's their easy conversation through the story that really stands out in this issue.

In an interesting coincidence, the Daredevil character presented here, is the same character as the Death-Defying Devil, featured in the comic from Dynamite Entertainment that was my previous review. I don't know how I got these two comics, and had no idea that they shared a character.

Conveniently, this book featured a two-page text feature on the original Daredevil character, who first appeared in Silver Streak Comics from Lev Gleason Publications in 1940. The character may have been the inspiration for Marvel's Daredevil, and is now in the public domain, which explains why he is featured in books by two different companies under slightly different names. This was a nice little bit of comics history.

The story here doesn't resolve all that much. The action is fun, but nothing exceptional. I did really enjoy the dialogue all the way through.

Rating: 6/10