Sunday, December 24, 2017

Crisis on Infinite Earths Deluxe Edition

Crisis On Infinite EarthsCrisis On Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Walls of antimatter are destroying the worlds of the multiverse and it's up to the superheroes of many earths to band stop them and their maker, the villainous Anti-Monitor!

I read a handful of issues of this miniseries over the years but never read it in its entirety. Imagine my delight when my mom got me this for Christmas despite me being "hard to buy for."

Crisis was created to get rid of the multitude of parallel earths and just have one DC earth in the name of simplification. In retrospect, I don't think kids had nearly as big of a problem with the multiverse as the adults. Anyway, the story had a lot of heavy lifting to do. How do you go about destroying universes, killing off characters, and telling a good story at the same time?

Fortunately, Marv Wolfman and George Perez were up for the task. Coming off their revolutionary run on New Teen Titans, Crisis was the assignment of a lifetime. While the story is hokey by today's standards, in 1985 it was pretty revolutionary. By the time the dust settled, Supergirl and the Flash were dead, along with a lot of other characters. Unlike today when heroes don't usually stay dead for longer than a year or two, those deaths stuck around for a while, over two decades in the case of Barry Allen.

George Perez was George Perez, the dynamo that still doesn't get the credit he deserves. Panel after panel is packed with characters, dozens at times, AND he stuck the deadlines. Not only that, the characters looked how they were supposed to look thanks to meticulous research.

The Monitor and the Anti-Monitor battling for the fate of the multiverse made for some tense moments. The heroes and villains go through the meat grinder and the multiverse was very nearly destroyed. Pretty heavy stuff for 1985. You know when Darkseid has to help out, the shit has really hit the fan.

I should also mention how coherent the story was. The last crossover of this magnitude I attempted to read, Final Crisis, was the dog's breakfast. This one was tightly plotted and made as much sense as a story featuring hundreds of people in costume punching things can. There were also some heartfelt moments, most notably Superman holding Supergirl's body and Wally West taking up the mantle of The Flash. With a couple more decades of reading under my belt, Crisis feels like an episode of Doctor Who or Star Trek with some Michael Moorcock thrown in.

Crisis was done in the name of simplifying the continuity of the DC universe and fully integrate the Quality, Fawcett, and Charlton heroes they acquired the previous couple decades into the fold. However, "simplifying" the continuity had some unforeseen repercussions. Firstly, it created a multitude of continuity issues of its own that would necessitate further tweaks every few years. Secondly, and much worse, it created the popular mass crossover storylines that encompass the entire company's books but are ultimately unsatisfying in the name of grabbing fat stacks of cash.

While I don't think Crisis on Infinite Earths stands the test of time as well as some books from the period, it does mark a transitional point in the DC Universe and much of the modern DCU starts here. 3.5 out of 5 stars, though it would have been a five if I'd reviewed it as an eight year old in 1985.

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Starman Omnibus Volume 2

The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 2The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 2 by James Robinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jack Knight continues to grow into the legacy of Starman, encountering old friends and foes of his father along the way.

As I've said before, the best comics have an underlying theme. Starman has always been about family, with Jack trying to fill the shoes of both his father and dead brother. In this particular volume, Jack continues to learn what a lot of us learn as we get older, that our parents were regular people before we were born.

This, the second Omnibus, contains Starman 17-29, Showcase '95 12, Showcase '96 4-5, and Starman Annual one. It also contains two of my favorite stories in the whole series, namely the intro of Bobo Benetti, a super-powered bankrobber from the 40's who inadvertently becomes a hero, and the one where Jack teams with Wesley Dodds, the Sandman of the Golden Age. Wesley Dodds handng Jack his gasmask before he goes into battle is probably my favorite sequence in the entire series and almost yanked a man-tear from my dried up ducts. Seriously, Sand and Stars is one hell of a great read.

As with the previous volume, the book has gotten even better with age. I caught way more of the references this go-round. Robinson does a wonderful job making new characters seem like they were an integral part of the DC Universe for ages. The O'Dare family, Red Bailey, and Bobo Bennetti all seem like I could dig up an issue of Adventure Comics from the 1940s and see them all alongside Ted Knight.

One thing I didn't mention in the review of the previous volume is how James Robinson played the long game in this series. Seeds are planted that won't bear fruit until years later, like Jack's inevitable trip into space and future clash with The Mist over their son. Heavyweight stuff, especially considering what everyone else was doing in the 1990s.

This is the volume where things really come together for me. Tony Harris' art seems a lot more confident and the look of the series is fully realized, a look that will carry on once Harris leaves the book. James Robinson respects the past without being handcuffed by it. Re-reading this omnibus reminds me why I regard Starman so highly. It was head and shoulders about 99% of the comics at the time and still is. Five out of five stars.

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Starman Omnibus Volume 1

The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 1The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 1 by James Robinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When his brother is killed, Jack Knight is forced to take up his father's legacy, the legacy of Starman, and protect Opal City as best he can.

As I've said in other places, the 1990s were a bleak time for superhero comics. There were variant covers, gimmick covers, stunt storylines out the ass, and everything was grim and gritty for the sake of being grim and gritty. However, there were some bright spots. Starman by James Robinson was on of those bright spots. Unlike most comics, Starman was actually about something, about stepping into your father's shoes and seeing how they fit.

To be honest, I didn't know all that much about Starman before I initially picked this up years ago. I had a Batman and some issues of All-Star Squadron with the original Starman and I had a few issues of Adventure Comics with the Ditko Starman in it. The original series was just wrapping up when I finally gave it a shot. It quickly became my favorite superhero comic of the time period, maybe of all time.

Before I start gushing about it, I'll get the warts out of the way. It looked like Tony Harris was finding his legs at time, some of it is a little overwritten, and some of the references are way out of date. Other than that, it's pretty damn great.

Jack Knight is far from the typical superhero, of the 1990s or any other period. He doesn't wear a costume, although the goggles and leather jacket become an identifier of sorts. He's more interested in his second hand store than being the protector of Opal City. At least, at first... When Jack finally takes up the cosmic rod, I was grinning like a jackass, even though I knew it was coming. Kind of like seeing the Millennium Falcon for the first time in The Force Awakens.

It pretty slick how Robinson wove various aspects of the various Starman characters into Jack's tale, from Ted Knight's adventures as the original Starman with the Justice Society to Mikaal Tomas, the Starman of the 1970s. The rest of the cast is also great: the O'Dare family, the Shade, and Robinson and Harris' take on Solomon Grundy. Hell, the relationship between Grundy and Tomas is pretty touching, even after all these years. I think Robinson does more with Ted Knight as a character in the pages of Starman than was done in the previous fifty years.

The series was still finding its feet at the beginning but the magic is already there. The supporting cast is well established by the end, complete with the Mist's daughter taking up her father's mantle.
Tony Harris' art was perfect for the series and while I still love the series after he leaves, it loses a little something.

This was my fourth or fifth go-round through the first seventeen issues of the series, from 0-16. It still stands up. This Gene Wolfe quote seems pretty apt: “My definition of good literature is that which can be read by an educated reader, and reread with increased pleasure.” Every time I read this series, I notice something new and understand more of the references. There was a Doom Patrol reference I didn't catch the last time and lots of movies and TV shows I've seen since the last time. Also, I wonder if James Robinson ever found that Japanese import Jump with Joey CD.

I don't really have a whole lot else to say for fear of spoiling the series. After multiple reads, it still stands head and shoulders above the rest of the superhero comics of the time period. Five out of five stars.

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Madman Volume 1

Madman Volume 1 (v. 1)Madman Volume 1 by Mike Allred
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Madman volume one collects Madman 1-3 and Madman Adventures 1-3.

In a lot of ways, the 1990s sucked for comics. Style over substance and gimmicks were the norm. Because of speculators, the market swelled and almost died. It will never be what it once was. However, comics in the 1990s did have some bright spots.

I first encountered Madman on the school bus sometime around 1993. A friend of mine had Madman Adventures #1 and was gushing about it. After I got tired of making fun of him for not being into X-Force like the rest of us, I gave it a chance and was instantly a fan.

The last time I read these was before the turn of the century so it was almost like rediscovering Madman for the first time. Madman helps bring his creator back to life, meets a lovely girl, goes back in time, runs from dinosaurs, and encounters an alien. It's all more complex than that, of course. Basically, it's Michael Allred's love letter to the comics of his youth.

Madman isn't a gun-toting bad ass like most of his 1990s contemporaries. He's sensitive and has low self esteem. He wears his costume mostly to hide from himself, a more thought-out throwback to the Lee and Kirby days.

The art is as gorgeous now as it was the bygone day I first saw it. It's no wonder most of the comics I read this year had Michael Allred art. Love for the medium is apparent in every panel.

Coincidentally, Madman is featured in one of my favorite panels of all time:

Madman is one of the few comics from the 1990s that has stood the test of time and will continue to do so. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Silver Surfer, Vol. 5: A Power Greater Than Cosmic

Silver Surfer, Vol. 5: A Power Greater Than CosmicSilver Surfer, Vol. 5: A Power Greater Than Cosmic by Dan Slott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Silver Surfer's adventure with Dawn Greenwood reaches its end...

All good things must come to an end and Dan Slott and Michael Allred's run on the Silver Surfer is no exception. Fortunately, it goes out with a bang.

This volume sees the Surfer and Dawn do some gambling, tell the tale of Tiny Harold, save the universe, meet Galactus, save the universe a time or two, and land on a planet of holograms, with Eternity and the Never Queen looming over them the entire time.

This very volume very much reminded me of The End of Time, David Tennant's swan song on Doctor Who. Lots of old moments were revisited and there were very nearly some tears shed. It had to end sometime but like the Tenth Doctor himself said, "I don't want to go!"

That's about all I want to reveal. Slott and Allred stuck the landing. The story of the entire volume was a love letter to Lee & Kirby and Doctor Who and Michael Allred's art was perfect for it. You can feel the love that went into this book on every page.

While I'm sad the adventure of The Silver Surfer and Dawn Greenwood is done, I think it ended the way it had too. No regrets from me whatsoever. In the coming years, Allred and Slott's run on Silver Surfer will be looked upon in the same light as Matt Fraction's Hawkeye and Mark Waid and Chris Samnee's run on Daredevil as some of the greatest comics produced in this decade. Five out of five stars.

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Dantastic Thoughts - Captain America, Agent of Hydra - part 2

Wow, I just read Captain America is going to be a good guy again!  Imagine my surprise!  I thought he'd be a douche bag from now on but it looks like everything is going to be okay now!  Boy, is my face red!

Now that all the sarcasm is out of the way, the Captain America heel turn lasted about as long as I expected and they've hitting the reset button.  Word is there won't be any line-spanning crossovers for eighteen months, which I'll have to see to believe.

That's actually about all I have to say on the matter.  We all knew they'd hit the reset button and they did.  If people didn't buy into the stunt storylines, they'd quit doing them.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What Jack Kirby means to me

2017 would have been Jack Kirby's centennial.  As I read through the barrage of Twitter posts covering many aspects of The King's legacy, I began to ponder his effect on my life.

My first exposure to The King, though I had no way of knowing at the time, was before I could read.  I was probably four or five, flipping through a stack of my uncle's comics, when I came across Captain America #100.  I was captivated by the images of Cap being unthawed from his icy tomb and revived and begged my grandma to read it to me.  Not only was it what hooked me on Jack Kirby, it's what hooked me on comics.

My next brush with the King, the one that really mattered, was when I became enamored with Who's Who: The Definitive History of the DC universe.  It seemed like every character I was interested in had a drawing by Jack Kirby: The New Gods, Mister Miracle, the red and yellow Sandman, the list goes on and on.  I ordered a lot of Kirby comics from Mile High in those years.  Little did I know, I was just scratching the surface.

When I was around 10, another uncle gave me one of those 1970's paperback sized Marvel reprint collections featuring Captain America.  I was surprised to see Jack Kirby's name all over everything.  I bought a few issues of Marvel Saga around the same time and began sensing Kirby's impact was even bigger than I originally suspected.  In those pre-internet days, research was a lot harder than it is now, but I eventually discovered The Challengers of the Unknown, Silver Star, Captain Victory and a lot of Kirby creations.  Not to mention the Lee and Kirby issues of The Fantastic Four.  Pure gold!

Where am I going with this?  Jack Kirby is responsible for most of the comic characters I love.  Without him, there would be no Marvel Universe and it's possible the comics industry would have never fully recovered after the crash of the 1950s.  These days, you can't get away from his influence.  Movies and merchandise depicting his characters are everywhere.

When I think of comics, I think of Jack Kirby.  With the advent of Marvel Unlimited, the Kirby-crafted cornerstones of the Marvel Universe are now available to a whole new audience.  Long live the King!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Doom Patrol, Volume 1: Brick by Brick

Doom Patrol, Volume 1: Brick by BrickDoom Patrol, Volume 1: Brick by Brick by Gerard Way
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A young EMT named Casey Brink witnesses Robotman being hit by a garbage truck and she's pulled into the maelstrom of weirdness that is... the Doom Patrol!

Here we are, another decade, another Doom Patrol book. The Doom Patrol went from being DC's version of the Fantastic Four in the 60s to being the book that put Grant Morrison on the map in the early nineties. There were a few more attempts at a Doom Patrol series after Morrison's but they weren't very memorable, although I still remember the landfill full of Robotman parts behind Doom Patrol headquarters during Keith Giffen's run.

Anyway, the weirdest super heroes in the room are back. And much like the Grant Morrison days, I was only half aware of what was going on. That being said, I did enjoy myself in a nostalgic sort of way.

Robotman is still the most normal member of the Doom Patrol and my favorite. He's like Moe of the Three Stooges, struggling to keep the group together. From being hit by a garbage truck to stomping off to go find some pants, Robotman is the hilarious grumpy uncle of the team. I also liked Negative Man getting back to something resembling the version I was familiar with, though Larry wearing Rebis' shades was a nice touch. And what the hell is up with the Chief, Niles Caulder? Hell, that alone makes me want to get the second volume.

Much like Shade, the Changing Girl, Volume 1: Earth Girl Made Easy, I felt like this book was laying the groundwork for the series, integrating Space Case with Robotman, Flex Mentallo, Negative Man, and Crazy Jane. However, I didn't find it nearly as accessible as Shade.

While it wasn't as enjoyable as I'd hoped, I'm cautiously optimistic about the future of the series. Three out of five stars.

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Shade, The Changing Girl: Earth Girl Made Easy

Shade, the Changing Girl, Volume 1: Earth Girl Made EasyShade, the Changing Girl, Volume 1: Earth Girl Made Easy by Cecil Castellucci
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loma, an alien from Meta, tries on Rac Shade's legendary madness coat and finds herself on earth, in the body of a brain-dead girl, Megan, who was not very nice before her accident. Will she adjust to Megan's life with Metan authorities on her trail?

As someone who has most of the Steve Ditko Shade run from the 1970s AND most of the 1990s Vertigo run, I approached Shade The Changing Girl with cautious optimism. Since the Young Animal imprint seems to be the second coming of Vertigo, I figured I'd give it a shot.

I wound up digging it. Shade, The Changing Girl, takes elements from both the Ditko run and the Peter Milligan-penned Vertigo adventures. Honestly, it's more coherent that both were a lot of the time.

Shade, The Changing Girl, is a fish (or bird) out of water story as Loma steps into Megan Boyer's life and tries to experience earth life. Too bad Megan was a tremendous bitch. As Loma pieces together what happened on the night Megan drowned, she makes friends and encounters a lot of people Megan did wrong. A LOT of people. Even her parents hate her.

Without spoiling things too much, Earth Girl Made Easy laid a lot of groundwork and set the stage for future adventures. It was really cool that Mellu is on the trail of the stolen M-Vest. I have a feeling Shade and River will be visiting Meta and the Area of Madness in the future. It kind of feels like Doctor Who in a way.

Earth Girl Made Easy feels like it could easily fit into the Vertigo Shade series. As a long time Shade fan, I'm pretty excited about what's to come. Four out of five stars.

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Batman '66 Meets the Legion of Super-Heroes

Batman '66 Meets the Legion of Super-Heroes (2017-) #1Batman '66 Meets the Legion of Super-Heroes (2017-) #1 by Lee Allred
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Super-powered teenagers from 2966 come back to find the most powerful teenage superhero 1966 has to offer: Robin? Will they be disappointed? And what happens when someone steals their time bubble? Holy Grandfather Paradox, Batman!

Here we are, the comic I've been waiting months upon months to read. I've had a soft spot for the Batman TV show since watching the Batman movie one rainy Saturday afternoon as a kid, and I have fond memories of reading reprints of the Legion of Super-Heroes in Adventure Comics. Was I disappointed! Hell no!

This book, much like Bug!, feels like the Allreds had been waiting their whole lives to create it. You can feel the love for both properties on every page. It's full of Bat-puns and inside jokes about the Legion's history. When Ferro Lad, Braniac 5, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, and Chameleon Boy show up in 1966, they don't get quite what they expect. Robin doesn't even have super powers!

Universo and Egghead didn't do a whole lot besides provide a reason to get Batman into the future with half of the team and Robin leading the Legion in modern day Gotham. I'd say my favorite part of the book was Batman repeatedly rubbing Braniac 5 the wrong way. "Logic is science and computers. Lots and lots of computers."

It was nice to see a cameo appearance by Matter Eater Lad in the background, as promised by Michael Allred on Twitter. I didn't notice the Legion's upside down rocket-shaped clubhouse but I haven't combed through the background yet. There are a lot of other Easter Eggs (ha!) that I noticed by I don't want to spoil them.

At the end of the day, this crossover was as great as I thought it would be. Too bad it's just a one-shot. Five out of five Bat-tastic stars.

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