Thursday, May 31, 2018

Robin Red and the Lutins #1

A second review for today as I try to make some progress on the stack before we head to the US for the summer. Like most of the random stack of unread comics, I have no recollection of where I got this one.

Title: Robin Red and the Lutins
Issue: #1
Date: November, 1986
Publisher: Animated Comics Enterprises (ACE)
Writer: Pat Boyette, Jack Kent, DeFuccio, Clarke
Artist:Pat Boyette, Jack Kent, DeFuccio, Clarke

I love it when I find something that is completely unexpectedly good. This was published probably about a year before I started my first serious run of collecting comics, and right around the beginning of the b/w comics boom of the 80s, and I completely missed out on it then, in spite of me actively seeking out all the small press fantasy titles I could get my hands on back then.

The main story if by Pat Boyette. There are two one-page gag strips as backups, one by Jack Kent, and the other credited to "DeFuccio & Clarke".

But it's the main story that really shone here. Set in a fairy tale world where the various types of magical creatures are known collectively as Lutins, the story centers on a young prince who is on the run because his uncle has decided to kill him to nullify the boy's claim to the throne.

He takes shelter with a witch, but is soon finds himself in new danger at the hands of a trio of magical ogres. The title character, the son of the local woodcutter, arrives toward the end of the issue to take up the quest to save the young prince.

The greatest thing about this is that everyone in the story, heroes and villains alike, are marvelously incompetent. The humor turns slapstick occasionally, but it never quite manages to detract from the story, and the personalities of the characters shine through brilliantly. It's also nice that the artwork avoids "comic book" body types and goes for a much more realistic range of looks.

The pacing and dialogue are reminiscent of Carl Barks' Disney work, and the magical elements of the world are creative and fun.

I'm not sure how long a run this ended up getting in the 80s, but I would love to check out any more of it that got published.

Rating: 8.5/10

Coelacanthid #5

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Coelacanthid Issue: #5
Date: May, 2009
Publisher: Extra-Coelacanthus Publications / Michael Connor Illustration
Writer: Michael Connor
Artist: Michael Connor

This starts out as a nice homage to classic romance comics and quickly move into the surreal as a young couple meets a talking "living fossil" who proceeds to regale them with the tales of his mighty achievements through the ages. There is also some frightening of small children, some theft of pretzels, and a few Godzilla references.

This was totally ridiculous, but loads of fun, and the detail work on the inking was excellent.

Rating: 7.5/10

Monday, May 28, 2018

Geraniums and Bacon #5

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Geraniums & Bacon
Issue: 5
Date: 2008
Publisher: Bella Razor Press
Writer: Cathy Leamy
Artist: Cathy Leamy

I love a good geeky autobiographical comic, and Cathy Leamy always delivers great stuff in hers (see here for my review of #6 in this series).

This issue opens with wedding dress shopping, well, observing it for fun, anyway, and it closes with bra shopping. In between, we get a suit of "War of the Roses Mecha", a rotted, deflated pumpkin named Senor Calabaza, freelancing, and the local gang of bike-modders. The opening bit is hilarious and awesome as the artist attends the annual Filene's Basement bridal gown sale AKA the "Running of the Brides". She's not planning on getting married; she just wants to be part of the chaos.

The roommate story of the rotten pumpkin is sentimental and fun, and the tale of the suit of armor is wonderfully surreal.

Cathy Leamy picks out great details to bring her stories to life, and they are always amusing. Also, that Charlies Angels tribute cover is awesome!

Rating: 8/10

The Heavenly Bride Book Two

The second volume of Katrina Joyner's collected webcomic. I purchased both volumes by way of Kickstarter in 2016. My review of the first volume is here.

Title: The Heavenly Bride
Issue: Book Two
Publisher: The Writers of the Apocalypse
Date: 2016
Writer: Katrina Joyner
Artist: Katrina Joyner

The second volume of Katrina Joyner's collected webcomic, The Heavenly Bride, continues the entanglement between Lhung, a celestial dragon in human/vampire form, and Taus, a winged assassin in training.

This volume delivers quite a bit more plot than the first book in the series, and it introduces new characters while solidifying the worldbuilding. It also brings the tragedy of Lhung's vampiric nature to the fore, and provides the needed backstory for a better understanding of Taus' complex situation.

There is a sexual assault and the subsequent response to it that, while not show graphically, was an unpleasant sequence that also ventured into some overplayed tropes, but it does not remain a focus, and the story is able to move beyond it.

The setting becomes more fascinating as it is fleshed out, and the minor characters get a lot of development. This is a story with a lot going on, and I'm interested to see how it continues to develop.

Rating: 8.5/10

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Batman '66 Meets Steed & Mrs. Peel #1

Bought this one last summer at New England Comics, Quincy MA.

Title: Batman '66 Meets Steed & Mrs. Peel
Issue: 1
Date: September 2016
Publisher: DC Comics / Boom! Studios
Writer: Ian Edginton
Artist: Matthew Dow Smith
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Cover: Michael Allred, Laura Allred
Editor: Kristy Quinn, Jessica Chen, Chris Rosa

This was a must-buy for me, as it features a mashup of my two favorite vintage TV shows. That being said, movie/TV adaptations are hard, and most of this felt like a good attempt, but just a bit off.

The story involves a series of jewel thefts that have spread from England to the US. Bruce Wayne is showing corporate executive Michaela Gough around Gotham's rare gemstone exhibition when the Catwoman shows up with a group of henchmen intent on looting the place. Bruce Wayne signals to Robin and Alfred to make the save, but before they can arrive, John Steed and Emma Peel make short work of the bad guys in their own distinct style.

It's not long before the Dynamic Duo are teaming up with the We-Can't-Use-The-A-Word, and a group of Cybernauts have arrived to take out Catwoman.

This set a pretty impossible set of high expectations for me, and it tried really hard to make them. There were some places where it worked great. Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara were spot-on. Robin had his moments, and Catwoman and Mrs. Peel admiring each other's choice of outfits was perfect (sorry, purrrrfect!).

The banter between Steed and Peel wasn't really there, Mrs. Peel's fight scene felt a lot more like a generic comic fight than Emma Peel, and the Adam West Batman's lines felt forced (and unfortunately, not in the way that Adam West Batman's lines are supposed to feel forced).

There was enough here that I would like to keep reading to see how it plays out, and I totally appreciate the absolute brilliance of the concept. I'm hoping this will get better as it hits its stride.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, May 25, 2018

Daredevil Noir

From from my unread books pile. I'm not sure where I got this one.

Title: Daredevil Noir
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: 2009
Writer: Alexander Irvine
Artist: Tom Coker
Colorist: Daniel Freedman
Letterer: VC's Joe Caramagna
Editor: Axel Alonso, Sebastian Girner, Jennifer Grunwald

Hardcover collection of the original four-issue series.

Set in Marvel's "Noir" alternate universe, this 1930s-era version of Daredevil has most of the classic elements readers will expect: Wilson Fisk, Foggy Nelson, Hell's Kitchen, and even a "Bullseye Killer".

This was a very well crafted story that stands on its own, and retains the heart of Daredevil's mythos. The action sequences were excellent, and the characters were spot-on. Foggy Nelson and the Kingpin were especially good.

Really, in many ways, this story could have been done in the standard continuity as easily as in this alternate world, and some readers may find that it is not enough of a departure. The changes made from the standard Marvel continuity didn't feel like much of a leap: Matt Murdock is an assistant to Foggy, a private investigator. Other than that, the biggest change is a new interpretation of Bullseye, and the addition of gangster Orville Halloran, and up-and-coming mobster who serves as an effective new villain.

The pacing of the story was a nice build to an effective conclusion, and I thought the climactic twists and action were effective, along with a really fun open ending in the final pages.

This is a good story that hits Daredevil's classic thematic elements through just enough of a different lens to make it feel fresh.

Rating: 8.5/10

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Lumberjanes Volume 3: A Terrible Plan

Bought this one last summer in the US (don't recall which store). My review of Volume 1 is here, and my review of Volume 2 is here.

Title: Lumberjanes Volume 3: A Terrible Plan
Date: February, 2016
Publisher: Boom! Studios (Boom Box)
Writer: Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters
Artist: Carolyn Nowak, Brittney Williams, Aimee Fleck, Faith Erin Hicks, Rebecca Tobin, Felicia Choo, T. Zysk
Colorist: Maarta Laiho
Letterer: Aubrey Aiese
Cover:  Noelle Stevenson
Editor: Dafna Pleban, Whitney Leopard

The opening story here is really a collection of stories, as the campers gather around the fire to tell spooky tales, which are lovingly illustrated by a series of guest artists. This makes for an eclectic mix that does a nice job of reflecting the personalities of the characters as they act as storytellers.

The real plot, though, has the campers split up on a day of free time at camp. Mal and Molly take a picnic lunch and set out on their very first date, only to encounter the Bear Woman and take an unintended trip to a dimension of lost things. Lost things, of course, include hungry dinosaurs.

Back at camp, April, Jo, and Ripley get busy trying to earn all of the most boring badges they can think of, competing in ballroom dancing, cake decorating, fence-painting, and scrapbooking ("More glitter!!!").

The plot back at camp provides the comic relief, but this story is all about the budding romance between Mal and Molly, and it is so adorable that it completely steals the show. There are a bunch of great character moments, a few fun nods to Jurassic Park, and enough imperilment to keep things entertaining.

I also felt with this volume that I've seen enough of the Lumberjanes world that the rules and logic are falling into place, which ends up strengthening the plot as events feel more consistent and less random than they did in the first two volumes. The worldbuilding is subtle but effective, and it provides the foundation to better focus on the character development, especially of Molly and Mal.

This was sweet and fun, and I will definitely be seeking out more soon.

Rating: 9/10

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Dark Sights

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Dark Sights
Publisher: Against Studios / No Name Press
Date: 2005
Writer: Tom Lin
Artist: Amie Key

This is the companion comic to Dark Signs (reviewed here). The focus here is on a homeless man traumatized by a past encounter with demonic forces. There is a lot of time-jumping, plus a cliffhanger ending, and the result is a plot the feels disjointed. It does capture the main character's disbelief and doubt of his own memories nicely, and the demons have a distinctive and creepy look.

There are also some super-powered characters who emerge to battle the demons, but not much is given in terms of their story.

This book has a nice look, but it didn't give me enough story to really hook me.

Rating: 4.5/10

Doodles Vol. 1

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Doodles
Issue: Vol. 1
Publisher: KS Productions / Kaiser Studio
Artist: Bryan Kaiser Tillman

This is really a sketchbook, as the title suggests.The sketches are mostly characters, with some pages focusing on detail work like heads and weapons.

The art all has a science fiction/fantasy vibe, with a lot of video game influence. It's all very nice technically although it doesn't feature much diversity in terms of body type. The characters all look like pretty standard types of the genre. The close-up details on heads and faces was nice, as were some smaller sketches featuring some nonhuman creatures.

A small number of handwritten notes accompany a few of the pieces and serve to give some additional insights into the mind of the artist.

This was a visually enjoyable book, but it didn't have anything that really stood out.

Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Batwoman #7

A cover variant that I got in 2012 when I was reading a bunch of DC's New 52 titles. It ended up in the random stack of unread comics after I hit New-52-burnout a few months in.

Title: Batwoman
Issue: 7
Date: May 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: J. H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman
Penciller: Amy Reeder
Inker: Rob Hunter
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Todd Klein
Cover: Amy Reeder
Editor: Harvey Richards, Rickey Purdin, Mike Marts

The last issue in this run that I read was #3 (reviewed here), which had Batwoman going up against the urban legend figure known as the Weeping Woman.

Now, the Weeping Woman has been revealed to be part of something larger, a criminal gang with supernatural abilities and connections led by a man named Falchion. The opening scene sets up their confrontation, but this issue is almost entirely flashbacks. There is enough here to piece together the basic scenario but it's got probably a few more parts in motion than it really needs to have.

I did like the modern urban fantasy vibe that smoothly meshes high tech cop drama with supernatural magic, and it sets up what looks to be an epic showdown that will hopefully be worth the convoluted path getting there. I do have issue #8, so I should get to find out soon.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, May 14, 2018

Princeless Book 4: Be Yourself #1

I picked this issue up last summer at Double Midnight Comics in Manchester NH.

Title: Princeless Book 4: Be Yourself
Issue: 1
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
Date: June, 2015
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: Emily Martin
Colorist: Brett Grunig
Letterer:Emily Spura

Adrienne, Bedelia, and Sparky crash-land in Grimmorium Swamp, home of such flesh-eating goblins, electric fish, and squirrels. Things rapidly go from bad to worse.

Meanwhile the King's latest attempt to bring out Devin's manliness instead ends up playing to his budding detective skills, and it may unlock the path to rescuing the Queen.

There were a lot of good details and creative challenges here that keep right on the edge between comedic and deadly serious. The character interplay was great, and the story veered into some fun unexpected directions, while continuing to bend and twist gender tropes at every opportunity.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Avengers: Age of Ultron Prelude

The Kiddo bought this at am imports bookstore in Pudong, Shanghai.

Title: Avengers: Age of Ultron Prelude
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: 2015
Writer: Zak Penn, Joss Whedon, Will Corona Pilgrim, Roy Thomas, Kurt Busiek, George Perez, Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Joe Bennett, Agustin Padilla, Marcio Loerzer Bennett, Wellinton Alves, Manny Clark, John Buscema, George Klein, George Perez, Al Vey, Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary
Colorist: Jay David Ramos, Tom Smith, Paul Mounts
Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles, Sam Rosen, RS & Comicraft, VC's Cory Petit
Editor: Jennifer Grunwald, Sarah Brunstad, Stan Lee, Tom Brevoort, Lauren Sankovitch

This is essentially a promotional book, released to hype the second Avengers film. It contains a comic adaptation containing most of the plot of the first Avengers movie, plus adaptations end-credit scenes and DVD extras to bridge the gap leading up to Age of Ultron. The film adaptations take up about the first fourth of this graphic novel.

The remainder is reprints of classic Avengers stories involving Ultron, starting with the original appearance of Ultron and the Vision in 1963, 1998's ultron storyline from Avengers #21-22, and Avengers 12.1 from 2010.

The movie adaptations are a nice summary, but lack the emotional impact of the films, and from the point of view of a reader, they feel more like a recap than a particularly immersive experience. The pacing also feels rushed.

The reprints were fun. I hadn't read any of these stories previously, and there was a lot of good material here. The original Vision story from 1963 is a particularly strong piece of writing by Roy Thomas, and it holds up quite well after over 50 years.

The story from 1998 has Ultron wiping out (and robot-zombifying) the entire population of the fictional nation of Slorenia (not to be confused with Serkovia... or Latveria for that matter), which is one of those excessive bits of extreme violence that get casually thrown into recent comics way too often. The idea is to add emotional impact, but really, it has the opposite effect.

That being said, it improves as the story progresses, and the final scenes, focusing on the often-overlooked Hank Pym, are excellent. George Perez does a great job with the art, including a breathtaking two-page spread involving hundreds of Ultrons.

The last story is a prelude to a new Ultron storyline by Brian Michael Bendis. It focuses on Spider-Woman, who has been captured by a crew of (mostly B-grade) villains, and her rescue by her Avengers teammates. A lot of the story is played for laughs, which clashes somewhat with the doom-and-gloom proclamation that it ends on. In general it felt a bit inconsistent, although it had some amusing individual moments and one-liners.

This book feels like it's unsure of who its target audience is. It's trying to be an introduction to Ultron to movie fans who aren't regular comics readers, but it's also trying to function as a "Ultron's greatest hits" collection for diehard fans. It makes a decent attempt at performing both functions, but it is not exceptionally good at either.

Rating: 6/10