Saturday, April 22, 2017

Extremity #1 Review



"Extremity" #1 from Image Comics -

      The Roto are beaten, but unbroken. Thea is the daughter of the Abba (leader), the mighty Jerome. Before the vile Paznina people attacked, she was her clan's greatest artist. Her hand could translate onto paper whatever her mind could imagine. Now, after the merciless Paznina raid, her hand is gone, and her imagination only brings her images of the horror of that fateful and day...And images of her coming day of vengeance. Under the watchful eye and fearful leadership of Jerome, the Roto have hatched a brutal plan to take revenge upon the Paznina, and it all hinges upon Thea's courage and thirst for blood. They killed her mother. They took her hand. They took her ability to create art, to express the inner beauty of her soul. They raped her people. If Thea gets her way, Paznina blood will flow - rivers of it.

      Daniel Warren Johnson pulls triple duty (creator, writer, artist) on this post-apocalyptic sci-fi- gore-fest, "Extremity" #1. In "Extremity," Johnson is doing what all great artists do, exploring his deepest fears through his art, and examining some tough and very interesting questions. The title, "Extremity" not only alludes to the part of the body that Thea has lost, but it also foreshadows to the lengths that she will go to in order to recover her personal power, to reclaim that which was taken from her, to restore a perceived balance that the Paznina destroyed when they killed her mother and took her hand. Like Johnson, the protagonist, Thea, is an amazing artist. Johnson explores his fears of losing that part of his identity through Thea's loss of her hand, and he creates a world in which his fear can grow into an anger, a thirst for vengeance that forms a huge part of Thea's character. And in Johnson's world, someone is responsible for Thea's/Johnson's loss - there is someone who has to pay. What happens when someone loses that which is a defining part of their identity? They become someone, or something else. We associate artists with beauty, liberality - in our society, if we are honest, we associate creativity with sensitivity, softness, what we perceive to be the feminine side of our human nature. When Thea's hand is taken, a part of her dies, and she takes on a new identity, one with very few of those artistic, feminine attributes. It seems that Johnson is posing the question, "Is our identity intrinsic, or is it shaped by environmental causes?" - nature vs. nurture. How can Thea restore balance through vengeance? After all is said and done, she will never have her hand, nor her mother, ever again. Can the void inside Thea be filled with retribution? I cannot wait to see how Johnson handles these questions. Besides this, Johnson's art is amazing - his pencils have shades of the intricacy of Moebius' and Darrow's. Every panel is maximized, busy, full and totally dynamic. Every character is distinct, every face is expressive, every bit of battle is superbly, gorily and explosively rendered. In short, Johnson' got skills. REAL skills. Extremity" is a winner. I dig it.

RATING: 9.5 out of 10. Love it.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

I.T. - The Secret World of Modern Banking #1 Review





"I.T." #1 from BlackBox Comics

    Evan Adonis is one of the top young I.T. and Operations experts that no one's ever heard of. Evan spends his days protecting the fat cats that run People's Trust Bank of N.Y.. He's so good, so fast, and so dedicated that he's earned the playful name, "Red Eye," because he's always on the move and barely has time to sleep. But while Evan burns his life away stopping malevolent malware from hijacking the bank's servers, his boss steals all the credit, and poor Evan gets to be the butt of everyone's jokes. But, maybe that is all about to change. When a top National Security Agency I.T. Specialist is murdered in a botched black ops mission at the United Nations Headquarters, Evan might just hear his nation's call of duty...If his shady bosses don't get Evan killed first. You see, Evan's bosses are in bed with one of the most dangerous crime families in America and poor Evan just got caught with his ear at the wrong door. Welcome to the secret, corrupt and often DEADLY world of modern banking. 

   Created by Dimitrios Zaharakis, "I.T." is a fast-paced, action-packed, tension-filled adventure/intrigue story written and penciled by DC Comics veteran, Scott McDaniel. ".I.T." is captivating right from the first page, giving the reader a glimpse of the darker world of international banking, and the dangers that face the I.T. experts that protect the banks, highlighting the constant threat of hackers trying to breach the banks' firewalls for their own purposes...Or for the purposes of those who hired them. Banking is all about competition and the competition is RUTHLESS, playing out both in the real world and in cyberspace. Evan Adonis is the perfect protagonist: loyal, put-upon, unappreciated, hard-working, a real wizard with a computer, and an absolute ingenue. That is a recipe for disaster, especially when the fat cats he's protecting have no interest in protecting him. I really liked Evan as a person - he was so well written that I cared about him, which is a big reason why I'm signing up for this series. I'd like to continue this dangerous journey along with Evan Adonis - I'll be rooting for him. Scott McDaniel is in top form here - he is a master at penciling action, the designs for his characters are distinct, and the busyness of his panels make this book a classicly fun comic to enjoy. I don't know where BlackBox Comics came from, but if they keep cranking out great stuff like this, one thing is for sure: BlackBox will be here to stay. 

RATING: 10 out of 10. "I.T." is fascinating, has a great protagonist, and is a LOT of fun. This comic is perfect for translation to the big or small screen. 

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Street Tiger #1 Review



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"Street Tiger" #1 from Amigo -


       You gotta be tough to survive in Nam City. Tough as nails. The city is plagued by crime, organized and otherwise, along with an unhealthy dose of corruption. Lately, however, someone has been evening the odds. Some of the city's lowest lowlifes have been turning up dead. Way dead. As in, brutalized beyond belief. Who, or what is bringing Nam City's crime problem to its knees, one smashed-head at a time? There' a whisper, a rumor of a lone, vicious vigilante wearing a leather jacket with the image of a tiger emblazoned on the back...


    Ertito Montana is a one-man gang, creating, writing and doing all the artistic duties in this violent crime-thriller, "Street Tiger." "Street Tiger" is a hodge-podge of a genre-bender: it is all at once a hard-boiled crime thriller, a mystery and an homage to the gory grindhouse films of yesteryear and those cool Hong Kong-made action films of the 1970s and 80s. So far, we know more about the bad guys that are trying to kill him (?), and the cops that are trying to stop him (?) than we know about the protagonist. All we know is that this vigilante is a one-person wrecking crew, with a tongue for tough-talk and a love for bashing in heads with his baseball bat...Negan-style. Actually, gun, bat or fists, it's all in a day's work for this heartless vigilante. While the premise is scintillating, the execution is about as lackluster as it can get. Heavy on the dialogue, which at times seems to be talking for the sake of talking, "Street Tiger" wastes a lot of space in the calm before the storm, using long set ups to accentuate the sudden and brutal violence. It's a strategy that Tarantino likes to use a lot in his films; however, in the comics medium, it's got to be done just right, or it becomes a bit boring. And "Street Tiger" #1 has a lot of lag time before the action pops off exactly twice in the book, but when the action starts, Ertito does indeed turn up the violence volume to "11." I wish that were all, but the art is VERY quirky. Ertito walks the line between amateurish and bizarre...It's an interesting technique that the eye both rejects and enjoys at the same time. While Amigo, headed up by the VERY gifted, El Torres, is an up and coming company that has given us a string of GREAT comics so far, unfortunately, "Street Tiger" doesn't look to be one of them.

RATING: 5.5 out of 10.

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

TEX'S BACK-ISSUE QUEST EPISODE #52 (Officer Downe)



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Hey there, again, fellow Questers!!

     It's T to the E to the X, back again to fill your noggin with all that comic book knowledge that you can't get in any college! 

    Today we ride on the wild side with a Frankenstein's Monster-type cop who can't be stopped. This cop is an over-the-top offering from the crazy, creative minds of Joe Casey and Chris Burnham. Here he is: 



It's my copy of "Officer Downe" #1, printed by Image Comics in 2010. It features the first appearance of LAPD Officer, Terrence "Terry" Downe. Officer Downe was a straight-edge, top-flight, law enforcement machine of mayhem who died in the line of duty, only to be resurrected by a secret program. He is the LAPD's secret weapon of mass destruction, the cop they send in to do the jobs no one else can, jobs that will kill other officers. Well...the fact is that sometimes these jobs kill Terry too. But no worries...they just resurrect him once more and put him back on the streets to send the worst criminals six feet under, or blow them sky-high. Whatever it takes to enforce the law, and maintain order - by any means necessary. 

Imagine my surprise when I was scanning through Netflix today and found that "Officer Downe" had been adapted to film by none other than Joe Casey himself? RIGHTEOUS! Check out the trailer (caution: neither the comic, nor the film are for children, or those with tender sensibilities):



Directed by M. Shawn Crahan, one of Slipknot's  insane percussionists, "Officer Downe" is pretty much like the comic, ultra-violent, campy and wildly over-the-top. It's like Judge Dredd, and Maniac Cop had a child that reminded everyone a lot of Officer Tackleberry of those nutty "Police Academy" films. This movie won't be winning any Oscars for sure, but if you take it for what it is, just a bit of a throwback to that old Grindhouse fare, with gratutious sex (two scenes, iirc), an overly-righteous hero (that may just be a bit of a psycho sadist), and some exaggerated, weirdly cool bad guys, like the animal-headed Fortune 500, or my fave, Zen Master Flash, a teleporting techno-ninja assassin, who happens to be a Chinese-speaking black guy, complete with horrible dubbing out of sync with his lips - just like out of an old kung-fu flick. This one has just enough camp, gore, and wild action to become a cult favorite. I dug it. But again, the movie, like the comic IS NOT FOR CHILDREN, nor THOSE WITH TENDER SENSIBILITIES. Okay? Okay. Rock on. Check it out is you have the time, or are so inclined. Drop some comments below about how you felt about the film, the article, or the comic. Be breezy, dudes!

That's all for today! Happy trails!!



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Thursday, March 30, 2017

TEX'S BACK-ISSUE QUEST EPISODE #51 (The Smurfs)



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Hello fellow Questers!!

    My question for you today is this: "What would you do if you were to find out that a property immensely beloved by American children for over a generation was actually FAR from being an American creation?

    Hold that thought, because that is exactly what's about to happen. So, strap in. 




  Welcome to the village of the Smurfs!! I mean, who didn't adore The Smurfs when that amazing cartoon burst on the scene back in those idyllic Saturday mornings in 1981? America quickly caught Smurf-fever, a fever that lasted the initial run of the show (1981-1989), and then into the 1990s, culminating in a come-back string of big-budget films beginning in 2011 with "The Smurfs" starring Neil Patrick Harris and Hank Azaria. From TV specials to toys, to t-shirts to comics, America has had a love affair with the lovable little blue dudes. However, what some Smurf-lovers don't know is that The Smurfs aren't a product of American creativity. Nope. Nuh-uh. 

  So, from where DID The Smurfs come? The answer? BELGIUM!!

  

  Feast thine eyes, mes amis! This is my copy of "Spirou" #1071, a famous Belgium comics magazine. Inside is the VERY FIRST APPEARANCE of Les Schtroumpfs, or as we know them in the good ol' U.S. of A...The Smurfs!!

   The Smurfs first appeared in the above comic magazine, "Spirou" #1071, on the 23rd of October in 1958 - that's right, the first appearance of the Smurfs is smack-dab in the early Silver Age of Comics!! The Smurfs were created by brilliant, and legendary, Belgian comics artist, Pierre "Peyo" Cuilliford, in the pages of his popular strip, Johan et Pirluoit (Johan and Peewit). The now-famous story is called "La Flûte à six trous," which in English translates to "The Flute With Six Holes." This story was later adapted as an animated film, "The Smurfs and The Magic Flute," in 1976. Here's a clip:




This film was eventually aired in the U.S.A., fully translated from the original French to English of course. It aired in 1983 after The Smurfs had gained considerable popularity here in America.  In this, their first adventure, The Smurfs are out to recover the magic flute that they created which leads them to meet and befriend the true protagonists of the story, Johan and Peewit. On to the FUN FACTS!!

FUN FACT 1: "Spirou" #1071, featuring the first appearance of The Smurfs, is a widely sought-after, but nearly-impossible-to-acquire, Silver Age key. I actually have two copies of "Spirou" #1071:



FUN FACT 2: And I have the first cover appearance of The Smurfs as well in "Spirou" #1072, dated 30 October, 1958:






FUN FACT 3: I actually had three copies of "Spirou" #1071 once. I sold one to a friend, making him very happy, and myself a nice profit compared to what I paid.

FUN FACT 4: Some don't remember that Johan and Peewit (pronounced "Pee-wee") appeared as the main protagonists in the early episodes of The Smurfs cartoon that begin airing in 1981. However, just like what took place in the "Spirou" comic strip in the late 1950s, The Smurfs soon outshined Johan and Peewit garnering a fame and popularity that overshadowed them totally, and eventually left them semi-forgotten.

FUN FACT 5: Soon after their debut, The Smurfs were given their own comic, albeit it was only a supplementary mini-comic freely given with issues of "Spirou." However, their popularity grew so much that they got promoted to having their own stories published in "Spirou" itself by 1963.

FUN FACT 6: All The Smurfs looked alike when they were created in 1958, with the exception of their red-garbed, white-bearded leader. As the stories became serialized, character development was needed to make the characters more interesting. It was then that individual Smurfs actually began to emerge. Smurfette didn't appear until 1965.

FUN FACT 7: The misanthrope wizard, Gargamel and his evil cat, Azrael, first appeared in 1959 and quickly became The Smurfs' main antagonists.

FUN FACT 8: The Smurfs' first animated film was released in 1965. It was called "Les Aventures des Schtroupfs" (The Adventures of the Smurfs). It is rare to see and has never been shown in America, nor translated into English. Here's a bit:



FUN FACT 9: The Smurfs have had two animated films, one successful TV Show, two successful live-action/CGI films, and one CGI Christmas special. In April of 2017, a new film, "Smurfs: The Lost Village" premieres in the USA!

FUN FACT 10: According to some accounts, The Smurfs' language, in which some words are replaced by "Smurf" ("schtroumpf" in French) was created when Peyo misspoke and accidentally used a word similar to the German word for "sock" when asking a friend to pass the salt during a meal. The friend jokingly replied, "Here's the Schtroumpf. When you are done schtroumpfing, schtroumpf it back, please." 

FUN FACT 11: It seems that The Smurfs had cameos before their first full appearances in "Spirou" #1071. Here is their first appearance (cameo) in issue #1062 (The info for FUN FACT 11, and following image are courtesy of my fellow comics enthusiast, the awesome Shawn Low - THANKS, SHAWN!).




Well, that's all for today! I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it! I will leave you with the opening of the classic Smurfs cartoon of the 1980s, and the trailer for the upcoming Smurfs film! Happy Trails!


"The Smurfs" TV Show, 1981 - 1989




"Smurfs: The Lost Village," April 2017



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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Gemini TPB Review



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"Gemini" from Image Comics -


   Dan is a mild-mannered pencil-pusher who spends his days slaving away in a cubicle being teased by his co-workers. His nickname? "SK," which stands for "serial killer." Dan doesn't hang out, doesn't have any friends, nor any sense of humor at all. However, what his co-workers don't know is that by night, Dan is one of the world's best, most respected superheroes: Gemini! But guess what? Dan doesn't know it either. Dan works for a shadowy corporation that creates superheroes at the cost of their freedom, Dan's mind, memories, everything he says does or thinks is all under the control and watchful eye of a highly-trained team of people hired to keep Gemini under the firm control of the corporation - a team that aims him like a weapon at any threat they choose at any time. But when Gemini suffers a gory injury that removes their control mechanisms from his body, they will stop at nothing to bring him back into the fold. Gemini must run for his life to find the truth of his identity...But the corporation has an arsenal of superheroes at their beck and call - Gemini's dual life could soon come to a brutal, horrific end. 


   Jay Faerber is back in top form with "Gemini." This TPB collects issues #1 through #5 of this high-octane, fun series from Image Comics. After Faerber's disappointing series, "Secret Identities," I am glad to see him back at telling the stories he does so well. The protagonist, Gemini, is aptly named - as Dan, he is dry and lifeless, while as Gemini, he is a human dynamo reminiscent of Spider-Man complete with quick-witted quips, and a Lobo-like healing factor. His outfit reminds me of the Golden Age Daredevil's costume with a few tweaks here and there. Faerber is good at writing stories that are lots of fun with a little darkness around the edges or just under the surface. He shows that again here, asking the reader if it is it better to have a super-powered citizen vigilante that selects his own targets based on his own moral code, or is it better for this vigilante to be controlled by some entity that we think has our best interests at heart? What happens to the personal freedom of the vigilante? Should he lose his right to be free because he has powers? Should corporations and/or governments be allowed to create living weapons? Great questions to ponder - and we ponder them all while Faerber gives us a story that covers all the bases: action, humor, romance and a search and struggle for individual identity. Jon Sommariva lays the smack down with wild, kinetic, cartoony, exaggerated art that definitely helps to build Faerber's world around Gemini, and makes this book look AWESOME. And what does Faerber do for added value? He brings his greatest creation, Dynamo 5, into the story giving us a taste of a larger "Faerber-verse" that is pretty exciting to me. If you're looking for a fun way to spend forty minutes to an hour of your day, pick up "Gemini." And, if you're so inclined, look for Faerber's "Dynamo 5," it's all kinds of great. 

RATING: 9 out of 10 for pure comic book fun. 

Happy trails.


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Friday, March 24, 2017

Justice League of America #1 (REBIRTH) Review

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   Summary: Batman is looking to put together a new Justice League, one that is not populated with just gods, and godlike aliens; he wants one populated mostly with humans to give humanity hope when the darkness he senses comes. He starts with the rehabilitated Killer Frost and quickly gains a varied cast to join his new League: Black Canary, Lobo, The Atom (Ryan Choi), The Ray, and Vixen. But can this team of big personalities, and, in some come cases, even bigger egos, come together to be the team that humanity needs to be the light in the darkness to come?

   Thoughts: Steve Orlando pens this "getting-the-band-together" tale in "Justice League of America: Rebirth" #1. While Ivan Reis' art is as gorgeous as ever, Orlando's story is a bit lackluster, slow, and almost wholly uninteresting as Batman gathers up a League full of second-stringers, divas, and ego-maniacs. Batman goes on and on about how humans need heroes they can know, not gods to inspire them, and then he puts Lobo on the team. That is not Batman-like logic, like, at all. 





   Summary: Batman's new team is trying to work out the kinks by getting to work doing heroic acts all over the globe. But before they can even settle in as a team, a powerful alien threat appears that catches the team unready - and one of them just might have to pay for this lack of readiness...With his life.

   Thoughts: Steve Orlando is at it again with this ungodly mess of a first issue of an ongoing series. My dislike for this issue bubbled over for several reasons. This team doesn't seem like a JLA-level team capable of defending a planet. It seemed more like a contrived Suicide Squad/JLA hybrid that was quite awful. Orlando tries setting up a JLA with a bunch of bickering members à la Marvel's Avengers, possibly thinking that it would bring drama and a more down-to-earth human element to the team; however, all it did for me was annoy and frustrate me in numerous ways. The JLA is not The Avengers, nor should anyone try to make it be. And yes, I have heard that Superman and other greatly powered superheroes are losing ground because people now desire more human, more fallible, more relatable, more flawed heroes. Maybe there was a time when we looked to deities to save us, now we want to do it ourselves, take part in our own collective destiny. Hence, a near-omnipotent savior-like hero is passé. Well, anyone who has read Superman comics in the last 30 years knows that Superman is all for humans creating their own destiny - if he weren't he would have taken over Earth in mainstream DC continuity long ago (Just read Alan Moore's Miracleman). If this was the idea that Orlando was banking on, it crumbled when Lobo, another nearly indestructible alien, replaced Superman on the JLA. 

  But wait, there's more.

  As if on cue, enter the main antagonist of the issue, Lord Havok, come to save humans from the FREEDOM that destroyed his beloved planet. He comes with his super-powered goons, spouting hokey, heavy-handed, clunky diatribes on the fallacy of democracy, and how measures must be taken to stop Earth from decimating itself like his world did. His solution? To subjugate Earth, going through this new, inept JLA to do so. If it weren't for Ivan Reis' always amazing art, and the great work of the inkers and colorist, this book would have been a total waste of my time. 

  I am all for change when it comes to comics, but this isn't change. This is a travesty. I feel like I was PUNK'D.

RATING: 5 out of 10. Batman, Black Canary, and Vixen are JLA material, but the rest of these guys need to hit the showers. 

  If you agree, disagree, or have anything that might give me another perspective on these books, use the comments section to let me read your thoughts. Happy trails.

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