Thursday, May 11, 2017

Bug! The Adventures of Forager

Bug! The Adventures of Forager (2017-) #1Bug! The Adventures of Forager (2017-) #1 by Lee Allred
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some time after his apparent death, Forager wakes up in the basement of a house on Earth with a talking teddy bear and a creepy little girl for company. Then things get weird...

Michael Allred has been one of my favorite comic book artists for aeons. When I saw he was teaming with his brother to do Bug! The Adventures of Forager, my curiosity was piqued. I only knew Forager from the New Gods entry in the 1980s version of Who's Who in the DC Universe and the awful "Olsen-bug" version from Countdown.

According to an interview I read before picking this up, Lee and Michael Allred became obsessed with Forager because of a battered copy of New Gods #9 at their guitar teacher's place when they were kids. Since Forager only made three appearances, including his death in Cosmic Odyssey, they pretty much had a clean slate.

The book reads like a love letter to Jack Kirby's DC creations from the first panel. Bug tears out of a cocoon and gets plunged neck deep in strangeness. Without spoiling too much, Bug teams up with another Jack Kirby creation from the 1970s to take on a super villain named General Electric.

The first issue is mostly setup but does a great job of setting the tone. Michael Allred's retro-style art is marvelous, as always, and his brother's writing works toward his strengths, making for one hell of a fun comic. Not only does it make me anxious for the rest of the series, it makes me want to try the rest of the Young Animals line and read all the 1970s Jack Kirby DC comics I can find. Five out of five stars.

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Silver Surfer: Citizen of Earth

Silver Surfer, Vol. 4: Citizen of EarthSilver Surfer, Vol. 4: Citizen of Earth by Dan Slott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Silver Surfer faces an earth threatening menace when Dawn Greenwood meets two of his former girlfriends. Oh, and there's a machine that's threatening to turn earth into a Utopia like Zenn-La, the Surfer's home world.

Dan Slott and Michael Allred's take on the Silver Surfer through a Doctor Who lens continues. The Surfer, Dawn, and Toomie adjust to life in Anchor Bay and save the earth a couple times. The Silver Surfer even becomes a celebrity.

I love the way Allred and Slott make the Silver Surfer feel like a comic from years ago while still having it feel modern and fresh at the same time. The charm of the series is the relationship between Surfer and Dawn and the Surfer's innocence and naivety.

Michael Allred's art is stellar, as always, and Dan Slott manages to make a character that has been pretty inaccessible at times to the Marvel Universe's equivalent to Doctor Who. The only thing I don't like about this run of the Silver Surfer is that it has to end at some point. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Batman '66 Volume 1

Batman '66, Vol. 1Batman '66, Vol. 1 by Jeff Parker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Batman and Robin fight crime in Gotham City in 1966!

Batman '66 is a series of comics picking up where the Batman television show of the 1960s left off. It's full of puns and Bat-humor. The art is done in a retro style by various creators with awesome covers by Michael Allred.

In this volume, Batman and Robin go up against Catwoman, The Riddler, the duo of The Penguin and Mr. Freeze, the Mad Hatter, the diabolical Egghead, and even team up with The Joker to face a common enemy. I really liked the way Jeff Parker weaves elements of the show with elements of the DCU.

The tales do a decent job of capturing the flavor of the TV show, warts and all. My favorites were the ones featuring the Joker and the one with The Penguin teaming up with Mr. Freeze. The book pokes fun at itself on several occasions, a nice touch.

It was an amusing read but nothing that's going to make me forget about The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 1, Hawkeye, Volume 1: My Life as a Weapon, or Daredevil, Volume 1. Three out of five stars. To the British Batmobile!

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Complete Our Valued Customers

The Complete Our Valued CustomersThe Complete Our Valued Customers by Tim Chamberlain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Complete Our Valued Customers is every single one panel Our Valued Customer comics in one convenient volume.

I don't remember how I discovered Our Valued Customers but I pissed away many an hour reading it before the Kickstarter to create this very volume was created. How could I not contribute to help yank it from the creative birth canal into the real world?

Anyway, Our Valued Customers is a hilarious and sometimes sad look into the world of comics fans. While I found it really funny, it also reminded me why I haven't spent a lot of time in comic shops since I was in college.

There's not a lot else I can say so here are some samples.

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Action Heroes Archives, Vol. 2

The Action Heroes Archives, Vol. 2The Action Heroes Archives, Vol. 2 by Steve Ditko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Action Heroes Archives, Volume 2, contains Captain Atom 83-89, Blue Beetle 1-5, Mysterious Suspense 1, Charlton Portfolio 9 and 10, and Charlton Bullseye 1, 2, and 5, all originally published by Charlton Comics Group, all with art by Steve Ditko.

In the aftermath of Crisis on Infinite Earths and reading most issues of Who's Who, I was enamored with a trio of new DC characters I'd previously never heard of, namely Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, and The Question. While I enjoyed the DC versions of the characters, I started scouring flea markets and yard sales whenever I could, unearthing issues of Charlton Bullseye and reprints of Blue Beetle. Yes, I was a popular kid...

I didn't know what my attraction to the formerly Charlton characters was at the time but now I'm thinking it was that they were way more like Marvel characters than DC characters.

After reading a few stories in this volume, it was pretty clear that Charlton was the poor man's Marvel comics in its day. Captain Atom gets depowered and unmasked on TV a handful of pages into his second appearance. Likewise, the Blue Beetle gets his ass handed to him and arrested for the murder of the original Blue Beetle. Shit like that never happened in DC comics in the 60's.

You can almost feel Ditko's anger at Marvel in the artwork. It's more edgy than his work on Spider-Man and has more life than his final work at Marvel. Some of the poses are updates on poses he used in Spider-Man, like Ted Kord hunched over his work bench or Captain Atom straining to stop a menace with much of his power gone. There's a sequence where Blue Beetle battles an octopus underwater that I think is pretty spectacular for the time period.

The colors in this archive edition are really vibrant and a nice change of pace from the muddy coloring of the back issues I acquired over the years. The stories are simplistic by today's standards but on par with Marvel stories of the same time period. Captain Atom goes up against menaces like The Ghost and puppet themed Punch and Jewellee while Blue Beetle battles gangs of scrubs like The Squids and the Madmen. The Question's tales are short backup features and have a certain punchiness to them as he fights The Banshee and other menaces.

It's easy to see why DC would want to acquire these characters when Charlton went out of business but I have to think they would have fit in better in the Marvel universe. Also, I have to wonder how things would have gone differently for Charlton if they'd had a wider distribution, or, God forbid, social media at their disposal.

As a piece of Silver Age comic book history and a repository of seldom-seen Steve Ditko art, I have to rate this one pretty highly. Four out of five stars.

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Vision, Volume 2: Little Better than a Beast

The Vision, Volume 2: Little Better than a BeastThe Vision, Volume 2: Little Better than a Beast by Tom King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As The Vision's perfect family continues to unravel, Victor Mancha comes to town to spend some time with them. However, he has ulterior motives...

Tom King's run on The Vision comes to an end. We finally find out who the source of Vivian's brain patterns were, the source of some odd behavior on the part of the Vision over the course of the series, and whether or not The Vision is an ass-kicking machine that can take on the entire Avengers roster.

Vin's Shakespeare obsession foreshadows quite a few tragedies in the series. By the end, everything is in wreckage and the lives of The Vision and his perfect family are irrevocably changed.

The art team did a fantastic job on this volume, particularly Michael Walsh, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Jordie Bellaire, the tone perfectly matching the off-kilter, sinister, yet sometimes sweet feel of the series.

Too bad the series only went twelve issues. I could read about The Vision and his strange family for years to come. Four out of five stars.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wolverine: Old Man Logan

Wolverine: Old Man LoganWolverine: Old Man Logan by Mark Millar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wolverine has been retired for fifty years and the world has gone to hell in a hand basket. Logan and his family are behind on rent when Hawkeye shows up, blind and needing a navigator for a cross country trip. Can Logan and Hawkeye cross a United States ruled by super villains?

I've been hearing about this one for years. However, Wolverine is not my favorite character and Mark Millar is a hack. Anyway, with Logan coming to theaters soon, I thought it was high time I read this. I was sold when the Spider-Mobile made an appearance.

Wolverine and Hawkeye drive across country, encountering the Hulk's cannibal grandkids, Moloids, dinosaurs, aging super villains, and all sorts of nastiness. When they get to New Babylon, all the pieces are on the board but the whole game changes.

This was a fun real from a coolness standpoint. However, as per usual, Millar changes the characters' personalities to serve his story. When was Mysterio ever that powerful? How was a gang of super villains able to defeat the heroes when it's been attempted hundreds of times before?

Still, once I pushed that stuff aside, I had a ball reading this. It's almost orgasmic once Logan finally unsheathes his claws and gets down to business.

Wolverine: Old Man Logan is part Mad Max, part Unforgiven, a really fun read as long as you don't look too closely. It'll be interesting to see how much winds up in the Logan movie. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Question, Vol. 2: Poisoned Ground

The Question, Vol. 2: Poisoned GroundThe Question, Vol. 2: Poisoned Ground by Dennis O'Neil
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Question continues fighting crime in Hub City in his own way...

While trying to clean up Hub City, The Question encounters a Russian gypsy gangster named Volk, a vigilante named Mikado, a drug ring peddling a new hallucinogen, and the guy that shot him in the head in the first volume, The Question, Vol. 1: Zen and Violence.

I didn't enjoy this as much as the first volume but it was still good. The creative team of Dennis O'Neil and Denys Cowan created a comic book well ahead of it's time, somewhere in the middle ground between the typical comics of the late 1980s/early 1990s and the decompressed comics of today.

While the Question shares the same pulpy roots as Batman, like The Shadow, he's a far more complex character, pondering his Zen philosophy while driving around in his VW beetle and dishing out justice with his fists. He also takes a beating in every issue and sometimes doesn't defeat the bad guys.

I think this one didn't work for me because O'Neil and Cowan had The Question leave America's Asshole, Hub City, behind for a couple issues. Also, some of the newness has worn off and a lot of the time period smacked me in the face, like The Question's god-awful mullet. I guess this one just didn't age as well as the previous volume. Three out of five stars.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Question: Zen and Violence

The Question, Vol. 1: Zen and ViolenceThe Question, Vol. 1: Zen and Violence by Dennis O'Neil
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Victor Sage, aka The Question, fights crime in Hub City, possibly the most corrupt city on Earth.

Prior to this volume, most of my exposure to The Question was in Modern Comics reprints of Charlton comics stories and the weekly 52 miniseries. The Question has been held in high regard for years so I finally gave it a shot.

Dennis O'Neil's run on The Question stems from DC creating a mature readers line before later creating the Vertigo imprint. It's a tale of a man facing an insurmountable tide of corruption in his home town.

The Question started as a backup feature in Blue Beetle, a Steve Ditko character who shared much of his creator's Randian philosophy. O'Neil and team gave The Question a near death experience and a new Zen lease on life, making him a much more viable character.

Now that the history lesson is over, this was some good shit, especially considering it's 30 years old at this point. While it's wordier than most of today's comics, O'Neil was way ahead of the curve. There aren't a lot of comics that feature the hero floating face down in a river after a gunshot to the head and that's just in the first issue.

The Question's journey sees him learning from Richard Dragon, 70's DC kung fu hero, now confined to a wheelchair. When he returns to Hub City, everyone has hell to pay.

Deny Cowan's art suits the story perfectly. I was skeptical at first since I wasn't a fan of his work on the Superman books in the 1990s but it had an understated, cinematic feel. There were a few wordless fight scenes that I'd put up against anything today. As always, Bill Sienkiewicz was marvelous on the covers.

O'Neil, Cowan, and the others had a good thing going with The Question, a dark crime comic that paved the way for a lot of others down the road. Four out of five stars.

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Doctor Strange, Vol 1: The Way of the Weird

Doctor Strange, Vol. 1: The Way of the WeirdDoctor Strange, Vol. 1: The Way of the Weird by Jason Aaron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sorcerer Supremes are being killed across dimensions and magic itself seems to be dying. Can Doctor Strange get to the bottom of things?

The Way of the Weird collects issues 1-5 of the current run of Doctor Strange.

First off, I love the art. Since they couldn't get Steve Ditko from the late 1960's to illustrate, Chris Bachalo is the next best thing. I loved his run on Shade the Changing Man during the 1990's and he's a perfect fit for Doctor Strange's dimension-spanning adventures.

The story is pretty good as well. Magic is going haywire and someone is killing off the wizards across the multiverse one by one. The menace of the Emperikul has me jonesing for the next book. I love the Bar Without Doors and the addition of Zelma to the supporting cast. I also like what secret things Wong has been doing in the background.

However, I couldn't justifying giving this more than a 3.5. Structurally, the plot seems really similar to Aaron's plot in Thor: God of Thunder, Vol. 1: The God Butcher. Also, I didn't feel like a whole lot actually happened, mostly setup for future volumes. Some kind of payoff would have been nice.

3.5 out of 5. It was good and I'll read the next volume but I'm not looking forward to it as much as the next Vision trade.

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