Sunday, January 21, 2024

Captain America: Home of the Brave

Captain America, Vol. 1: Home of the BraveCaptain America, Vol. 1: Home of the Brave by Mark Waid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Captain America: Home of the Brave collects Captain America #695-700 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee.

I was a tremendous fan of Waid and Samnee on Daredevil so I had to pick this up. In the aftermath of Secret Empire, Captain America is driving around America on a motorcycle and encounters white supremacist organization Rampart, The Swordsman, Kraven the Hunter, and gets frozen in ice once again.

This is really good stuff and not just because I think Chris Samnee is the bee's knees. The first three issues are linked but largely done in one stories. The three remaining issues see Captain America thawed in a future America torn by war and ruled by a dictator.

Waid has a great handle on Captain America's personality and resists the temptation to go quip-a-minute Marvel movie style with the dialogue. While Captain America doesn't fight any of his iconic foes, he acts like Captain America should and goes a long way toward making me forget about all that dumbass Captain America being a Nazi stunt crap in Secret Empire. Five out of five stars.

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Thursday, January 11, 2024

Immortal Hulk Omnibus

The Immortal Hulk OmnibusThe Immortal Hulk Omnibus by Al Ewing
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once upon a time, a British writer and his collaborators took a certain green character and made comics history. That was Alan Moore but Al Ewing does a comparable job in Immortal Hulk.

I've never been a Hulk guy despite some of my earliest nightmares starring the Lou Ferrigno version. As soon as someone mentioned that Immortal Hulk had some horror elements, I had to take the plunge. This was my second time through since I couldn't resist getting a huge honkin' omnibus.

This contains Immortal Hulk 1-50, Gamma Flight 1-5, and a bunch of one-shots that probably could have been skipped. Al Ewing and Joe Bennett, along with a host of inkers and colorists, were the creative team for the bulk of the material.

So how much do I reveal? When night falls, the Hulk walks the earth, even if Bruce Banner was dead when the sun rises. There is lots of body horror, metaphysical elements, and large scale violence. Over the course of fifty issues and some change, the Hulk goes up against General Fortean, his father Brian Banner, the Abomination, Roxxon Oil, Xemnu the Titan, The Leader, and various other threats.

I alluded to Swamp Thing in my initial statement and that's what this reminds me of, even on the reread. Ewing adds swathes of material to the Hulk mythology, like the Green Door, the source of Gamma radiation, the world below, and even a link between the Hulk and the Leader that is brand spankin' new as far as I know.

When your main character is an engine of destruction, you need a strong supporting cast and we get that in the form of Charlene, the scientist that is initially working for General Fortean against the Hulk, Doc Samson, Absorbing Man, Titania, and Gamma Flight, Puck and Sasquatch formerly of Alpha Flight.

Ewing explores all of Bruce Banner's personalities, from the classic Big Guy Hulk to Joe Fixit to Devil Hulk. As much as this could have devolved into Hulk punching stuff, it never felt like that. This is a smart book. In fact, Joe Fixit even says "walking up and punching it doesn't seem like it would work this time" at one point. I also liked that some time was devoted to the Hulk-Thing relationship as well.

Is this a perfect book? No. I thought the ending fizzled a little the first time I read it and thought the same this time. I thought it dragged a little toward the end as well. However, I still think this is one of the best Marvel runs of the past 25 years, right up there with Waid and Samnee on Daredevil and Fraction and Aja on Hawkeye. Five out of five stars.

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Saturday, January 6, 2024

Daredevil by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee Omnibus Volume 2

Daredevil by Waid & Samnee Omnibus vol. 2 [New Printing] (Daredevil Omnibus, 2)Daredevil by Waid & Samnee Omnibus vol. 2 [New Printing] by Mark Waid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This collects Daredevil (2011) #28-36, Indestructible Hulk #9-10 and Daredevil (2014) #1-18, #0.1, #1.50 and #15.1.

Here we are, the second half of the longest unbroken Daredevil run in the character's history. I've been wanting to reread this run for years and this specific volume for months and months. I had a giftcard burning a hole in my pocket so here we are.

Mark Waid isn't my favorite comic writer by any stretch but he's one of my favorite Daredevil writers. With Chris Samnee handling the bulk of the art chores, this is even better than I remembered. Waid and Samnee put Matt up against threats like the Sons of the Serpent, the Owl, the Shroud, Diablo, the Stuntmaster, and others. Once Matt goes public with his identity and heads out west, the book really breaks some new ground.

This is an 800 page tome and I didn't really reveal that much. Waid and Samnee portray a happier Daredevil with the darkness lurking just beneath the surface. I don't know how the next run puts the toothpaste back into the tube but it's probably not an elegant solution. Anyway, I liked this even more the second time I read it. It looks gorgeous with Samnee and the gang at the helm and the individual issues are pretty satisfying on their own. It's steeped in Marvel history without beating you over the head with it and very accessible, much like the last volume.

Five out of five stars. I look forward to reading this run again in a few years.

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Friday, December 22, 2023

The Three Stooges vs. Cthulhu #1

The Three Stooges Vs Cthulhu #1The Three Stooges Vs Cthulhu #1 by Adam F. Goldberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While fishing for their dinner, the Three Stooges encounter a delirious fisherman. They borrow his boat and find things man was not meant to see...

American Mythology has been making hay with Three Stooges comics for years now but I never felt like picking one up despite being a Stooges fan in my youth. When I saw this was being released, it drew me in the same way Archie vs. Predator did.

This is funny shit. Adam F. Goldberg and Hans Rodionoff capture the voices of the Three Stooges very well. It felt like an old Stooges short most of the time, albeit with a huge special effects budget. Diego Tapie hands the art and colors, drawing in a cartoony style that suits the comedic nature of this sanity blasting tale. Rob Jones does the lettering and is the reason I heard about this in the first place.

So how do you stay true to both the Stooges and Cthulhu Mythos? Goldberg and Rodionoff tread the line. The Stooges are up to their usual antics but they keep Cthulhu from doing anything ridiculous. HPL is the butt of some jokes but it's all done respectfully and doesn't seem out of character from what I know of Lovecraft.

Four out of five stars. I guess I'm buying more Three Stooges comics now.

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Thursday, December 14, 2023

Wednesday Comics

Wednesday ComicsWednesday Comics by Mark Chiarello
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wednesday Comics collects the run of Wednesday Comics published by DC in 2009 in a format resembling newspaper adventure strips. I bought the series when it was coming out and read it but forgot most of it in the ensuing years. I kept meaning to reread it but the newspaper pages were awkward and the issues were scattered between a few long boxes. Lo and behold, this popped up on Shopgoodwill and no one else bid on it so I got it for $6.99.

Like I said, I forgot most of this in the past 14 years but I thought the stories were good to great for the most part. There were a couple I skimmed because I wasn't a fan of the artwork - Hawkman by Kyle Baker, Wonder Woman by Ben Caldwell, and Teen Titans by Eddie Berganza and Sean Galloway.

Of the rest, I'd have to say Deadman by Dave Bullock & Vinton Heuck, Supergirl by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor, and The Flash by Karl Kerschl and Brenden Fletcher were my favorites. Hell, I even liked the Metal Men strip by Dan DiDio but how can you dislike anything drawn by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez? You can't.

Befitting the newspaper format, this is an oversized hardcover. Instead of reprinting the issues as they were published, the stories were printed together, making for a much smoother reading experience.

It's funny that DC has this reputation of being Marvel's copycat boring brother, and sometimes they are, but they also published innovative books like this. And stuff like Watchmen and Sandman, if you've heard of those. Sadly, they don't do as many experimental works since Mark Chiarello got the axe a few years ago.

The adventure strips of our ancestors would be proud. Four out of five stars.

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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Adventures Into Terror volume 1

Adventures Into Terror Vol. 1: The Atlas Comics Library (The Fantagraphics Atlas Comics Library)Adventures Into Terror Vol. 1: The Atlas Comics Library by Gene Colan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Adventures Into Terror Vol. 1 collects Adventures into Terror #1-8, published by Atlas Comics (aka Marvel) in the early 1950s.

First off, this is a larger book than I thought it would be. Unlike the EC library, the dimensions are a big larger than a standard comic. Secondly, the restorations were lovingly done and the pages are cleaned up scans from actual comics with some cleanup, meaning the colors are faithful to the newsprint editions.

The tone is similar to EC stories but the stories aren't as gore strewn and sometimes have a certain possibly unintentional goofiness to them. Russ Heath's The Brain and The Return of the Brain, for instance, when the severed head of a Nazi scientist runs amok. The other stories are more or less standard horror fare, apart from the Basil Wolverton story Where Monsters Dwell, and the surreal Find Me.

The artists are a mix of legends and guys I've never heard of. Russ Heath, Joe Sinnot, Chic Stone, Gene Colan, Carl Burgos, Basil Wolverton, and Joe Maneely grace the pages. Fun fact - the Les Daniels Marvel book has a couple pages of the Basil Wolverton story in it AND a profile of Joe Maneely in it.

I'm not completely sold on Fantagraphics' Atlas line just yet after one volume but I'd buy another Adventures Into Terror volume if they put one out. 4 out of 5 stars.

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Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Blue Book Volume 1: 1961

Blue Book Volume 1: 1961Blue Book Volume 1: 1961 by James Tynion IV
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This collects Blue Book #1-5, originally published on Substack.

I was heavily into UFO stuff as a teenager but eventually outgrew it. Still, I'm a fan of Michael Avon Oeming and a book with just a black/white/three shades of blue color palette was impossible to pass up.

I fucking loved this! Tynion tells the story of Betty and Barney Hill, a couple who were allegedly abducted by aliens in 1961. Tynion sticks to the facts, not going all in on the skepticism or the believer POV when it comes to UFOs. Oeming's art is right in my wheelhouse, a minimalist affair that is extremely effective. I was already familiar with the story of Betty and Barney Hill but Tynion weaves everything together into something compelling and new.

Five out of five stars. I hope Tynion and Oeming do more of these.

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Gotham City Year One

Gotham City: Year OneGotham City: Year One by Tom King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Slam Bradley is hired to deliver a letter to Richard Wayne, he gets caught in a web of kidnapping, lies, and murder!

Tom King is hit or miss for me but I like Phil Hester and Jordie Bellaire so I was quick to pick this up and it did not disappoint.

Slam Bradley is a PI hired to deliver a letter to Richard Wayne, only to wind up as the Wayne's bagman when it turns out their baby daughter Helen, aka the Princess of Gotham, is kidnaped. After that, things get complicated. Hester goes more Tothian than usual in this and Jordie Bellaire's stark, minimalist color palette is prefect for the tale. King's writing reminds me of a lighter James Ellroy. The ingredients alone led me to believe some twisted shit was going down and I was surprised a couple times.

I'm not sure I liked the new revelation on how Crime Alley was named or that Gotham was a sunny place where people didn't lock their doors until the events of this book. Gotham was pretty bad in All Star Western, after all. Still, it's a Black Label book and probably not a part of continuity, although it's DC so does that really matter?

Questions/Spoilers - (view spoiler)

Anyway, I liked this quite a bit. Gritty AF, captivating, and a great looking book. Is every street in Gotham named after a former Batman writer or artist? 4 out of 5 stars.

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Top Ten Compendium

Top 10: CompendiumTop 10: Compendium by Alan Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Top 10 Compendium collects all the Top 10 material to date. I wasn't planning on reading this but no one else bid on it so I scored it for cheap.

So this is great stuff. Top 10 is the story of the police force in a city in which everyone has super powers. The concept sounded stupid to me but I wound up loving it. In some ways, it reminds me of Astro City. Neopolis, the city of the tale, is where all the supers ended up after World War II.

Sight gags abound, as do homages to classic comic characters. Police procedurals featuring super heroes are old hat now but I think Moore was the first one to do it with Top Ten. The art is most of the book is great. Gene Ha and Zander Cannon split the art chores in seasons one and two and Jerry Ordway handles things in Beyond the Farthest Precinct. Cannon handles the art in Smax and Ha does the honors in the 49ers.

The bizarre mix of characters shouldn't work. The cops consist of an android, an intelligent dog in an exoskeleton, a cowboy with huge guns, a satanist wizard, a half ogre from another dimension, and others. They work great together, though.

The only negative thing I can say about this is things get a little chaotic after Moore leaves. Cannon and Ha do a great job on season two but they completely disregard Beyond the Farthest Precinct, which makes me think they should have put Beyond last in the book for easier disregarding.

Five out of five stars. This one is something else.

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Supreme: Story of the Year

Supreme: The Story of the YearSupreme: The Story of the Year by Alan Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had my eye out for this for the better part of a decade and even had a couple dreams about finding it at a convention. When it popped up on ShopGoodwill a couple weeks ago, I put a pretty high bid on it and was relieved when I only had to pay $16 plus postage for it.

Like a lot of guys my age, I was a rube when Image Comics formed and started churning out books. I read 10-12 issues of Supreme and wasn't impressed. Eventually, Alan Moore got a writing gig on the book and thirty years later, I've finally read it.

Okay, so describing this without spoiling too much is going to be hard. Supreme has amnesia and finds himself in The Supremacy, a place outside of time where all the versions of Supreme go when there are Revisions in reality. Ethan Crane, Supreme's alter ego, is an artist working at Dazzle Comics. As he regains his memories, he relates the tales to Diana Dane, his co-worker and potential love interest as a villain's scheme slightly unfolds.

That doesn't make it sound that interesting but, boy howdy, it is. Supreme's tales are drawn in a 1950s style and the whole book is a very meta love letter to Superman. It's a very fun book and I don't see how anyone could think Alan Moore hates comics after reading this. It's quite clear that he loves comics, even all the goofy ass crap. Instead of trying to explain away all the Silver Age silliness, Moore unapologetically rolls around in it like a dog on something disgusting.

There are classic homages all over the place. Supreme started life as Kid Supreme so a lot of Silver Age Superboy stuff is there, like the robots, a Legion of Super Heroes homage, and a Supreme Hound. As he ages, we get Alan Moore's take on the old Justice League/Justice Society team ups, homages to the EC Comics, and even Moore's take on a very Spectre like character. Much like in 1963, he makes it feel like there's a whole box of comics out there I need to read.

I feel like I'm underselling this. It reminds me of All-Star Superman in some ways and feels like an extension of Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow in others. This is one of those books I expect I'll discover something new every time I read it. There are references to all sorts of golden and silver age stories and I know some of them went right by me.

Five out of five stars.

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