Monday, December 19, 2016

TEX'S BACK-ISSUE QUEST #43: (Psylocke...How It All Began)

Hey there, my fellow comic book fans!

    I wish the happiest of Happy Holidays to you and your families - whatever Holidays you may be celebrating. After seeing a few posts by my buddy on G+, Nick Edwards, I decided to dig into my comic book files and do a write-up on a mutant who has conquered the imaginations (and libidos) of comic book fans for several years: The one, the only...

PSYLOCKE!!! That's right, the purple-clad, psionic-powered, psychic superhero whose looks are as lethal as her skillset, entered the comics scene with barely anyone noticing way back in 1976. And she didn't even first appear in American comics, but in a book published by the then burgeoning Marvel UK:

Here are my three, that's right, THREE copies of "Captain Britain" #8, featuring the first appearance of Elizabeth "Betsy" Braddock, twin sister of Brian Braddock, AKA, Captain Britain! I started hunting these down years ago when no one was looking for them, and every time I came across a nice copy, I bought it outright. I think the most that I ever paid for any of these was somewhere around $25. Yup.

   When Betsy Braddock first appeared, she was a blonde caucasian woman with absolutely no apparent powers. A post-grad Physics student at the fictional Thames University, she worked as a charter pilot. She was created by veteran American artist, Herb Trimpe (R.I.P.), and breakout British writer, Chris Claremont, who along with his contemporary, Alan Moore, would become legendary in the comics industry, elevating comics writing to literary levels previously unseen. Claremont would also become the architect of the X-Men for years to come. Betsy had several adventures as a supporting character to Captain Britain, including being made to attack her own brother under the mind-control of the malignant Dr. Synne, but she didn't have her first psychic incident until issue #34, published in 1977. It was in this issue that her powers begin to manifest, as she had a horrifying vision of the danger Captain Britain faced against the insane professor, Lord Hawk. She eventually got into the modeling business, her powers continued to grow, and in Daredevils #3, published in 1983, she is shown to be working with S.T.R.I.K.E., the UK's answer to S.H.I.E.L.D., honing her psychic abilities. 

   Betsy continues her adventures, but as things will, soon it all goes bad. She lost contact with her brother, Captain Britain, for several years, and S.T.R.I.K.E. was secretly taken over by a powerful crime-lord, Vixen, who then proceeded to hire the super-assassin, Slaymaster, to take her and the other psychic agents out. Captain Britain saved her, but then Betsy became embroiled in his battle against the near-omnipotent superhero killing machine, the Fury, and the battle against its totally omnipotent, totally insane, reality-warping creator, Mad Jim Jaspers. It was also during this time that the love of Betsy's life was murdered. 

   Betsy recovered and returned to Braddock Manor, but things would still be bumpy, as Captain Britain was tricked into leaving the UK. And then this happened:

Above, you see a few pieces of my collection of "Captain Britain" vol 2. In the center, are issues #12 and #13. Why are they important? Glad you asked. In issue #12, Betsy actually takes over as Captain Britain! She wears the suit she is sporting there on the cover of issue #13, right beside it. That suit augmented her strength to superhuman levels and gave her the power of flight. Sadly, this wasn't enough to save her from Vixen and Slaymaster who lured her into an ambush and blinded her. Although Captain Britain arrived in time to save her due to their strong psychic link, he was not able to save her eyes. Betsy relied on her psychic abilities to give her a semblance of sight...But soon she would fall into the power of someone who would restore hey eyes, someone sinister - the otherworldly horror named Mojo - emerging as the powerful mutant known as Psylocke! But that is another story. ON TO THE FUN FACTS!

FUN FACT 1 - "Captain Britain" #8 is not only the most valuable of the Psylocke's key issues (1st app), it is also the hardest to find. Marvel UK comics, in fact, UK comics, period, had print runs considerably smaller than those of American comics, which makes them scarcer, especially the key issues. 

FUN FACT 2 - Betsy Braddock's hair was shown as purple for the first time in "Daredevils" #3, in 1983, another series published solely in the UK. 

FUN FACT 3 - Betsy suffered attempted rape at the hands of her brother. Well. Not really. It was Kaptain Briton, a sadistic version of Captain Britain from another universe. Betsy mind-blasted him and killed that dude dead as disco. She later uses his suit to become the new Captain Britain.

FUN FACT 4 - At the hands of her powerful, reality-warping brother, Jamie, and a version of Jean Grey from another universe, Betsy is now an Omega-Level Mutant, on par with Jean Grey and Charles Xavier. 

FUN FACT 5 - Psylocke was portrayed by Mei Melançon in "X-Men: The Last Stand:"

FUN FACT 6 - More famously, Psylocke was played by girl-gamer gone TV/movie star, Olivia Munn, in "X-Men: Apocalypse:"

FUN FACT 7 - Psylocke's outfit has been the center of controversy for some time. Some say her outfit plays to men's fantasies and is an insult to the powerful, competent character that Psylocke is. Some love the outfit. Others attack the suit's feasibility for battle as it offers little protection...Some just wonder how she'd fight in high heels with that leotard riding up where the sun don't shine. 

FUN FACT 8 - Psylocke's racial appearance has generated a bit of controversy as well (usually with people who don't read comics), as she goes from being a blonde caucasian to a purple-haired Asian by the 1980s. You can read all about it here: Comic Book Legends Revealed. What I have noticed is that fans are not necessarily bothered by female race switches as long as the character remains sexy, or becomes even more so. The blowback with race changes of female comics characters is usually considerably smaller than that of when it happens to their male counterparts. Others say this doesn't count as a race switch because it was originally part of an X-Men storyline in the comics (Uncanny X-Men #256) - I would agree. You decide. Me? As long as the comics and shows are good, I really couldn't care less. 

That's all for today folks! Thanks for reading! Happy Holidays and Happy Trails!

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Mulligan #1

George C. Romero Presents: "Mulligan" #1 from Grind House Comics -

     In the year 2136, in a maximum security prison located in Ft. Leavenworth, KS, Mulligan, a man-monster waits for death. Mulligan was a sickly child, abused and tossed aside by his peers until a miracle drug not only saved his life, but gave him heightened strength, and durability as well. He trained both his body and his mind, finally becoming a scientist at a huge pharmaceutical conglomerate. He discovered a way to access the carbon in the human body for fuel; however, he also discovered that it damaged the patients, the hemotites, irreparably. Seeking to shut down the experiment, his was rejected by the maffia-like conglomerate, and this rejection cost him both his career, his sanity, and his hand. Mulligan retaliated by brutally mangling homeless people until law enforcement closed in on him. At his point of death, the government comes calling - they have opened a dimensional door that they can't close, and they need a brilliant, tough, and absolutely INSANE son of a gun to help them clean up the mess they've made. Will Mulligan fix the problem...Or just crank up the crazy to "11?"

    Robert and Ashley Mulligan write this dark little sci-fi tale published by a new player in the comics game, Grind House Comics. In concept, Mulligan is quite an interesting character with a formulaic, but effective origin story. A sickly, ostracized child gets a drug that gives him a mildly potent superpower and develops his body and mind to serve humanity, first as a scientist, and after more tragedy, as a vigilante. But Mulligan goes off the rails, and the hero - who tried to stop the conglomerate from hurting innocent people - becomes a serial murderer. It is a real head-scratcher, and sucks a bit of the life and the enjoyment out of the story from there. Even though the entire book is exposition, the fact that we never really find out why Mulligan is killing vagrants bothered me continuously. Is he insane? He doesn't seem to be. Did he have an agenda? Didn't seem like it. Were the homeless people infected in some way by his research? Any connection I had to the protagonist was gone after that, as the story moved, again formulaically, towards the old "Boxed Crook" trope. Not that I don't like the "Boxed Crook" trope - "Escape From New York" and "Escape From L.A." are my jams. Don't mess with Snake Plissken, knowhutImean? Juliya Glagol's artwork is perfect for the story - it is sketchy, kinetic and moody. I enjoyed it most times, but often the panels were so dark that I could barely make out what was happening. Overall, "Mulligan" wasn't a bad read; the plot had some real potential. It just wasn't coherent enough in some places, and the protagonist was just too inconsistent - both of which made it not stand out enough for me to continue with the series - especially not at $3.49 per issue.

RATING: 6 out of 10.

PS - George C. Romero is the SON of the legendary filmmaker, George A. Romero, creator of the American zombie cultural phenomena that started with the cult classic, "Night of the Living Dead."

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Motro #1 Review

"Motro" #1 from Oni Press -

      A lone boy dwells all alone after his family was tragically ripped away from him. His only companion is a seemingly sentient toy motorcycle that acts as his friend and his guide. After waking from another horrible nightmare, he decides to go down to the village to trade for supplies; he finds that it has been attacked and overrun by vicious barbarian-like men and their sentient tanks...Tanks which share very strong emotional bonds with their brutal drivers. The boy pleads with the men to stop, but they don't heed his pleas - he decides to make them stop by force, surprising them with strength well beyond that of any normal human. The boy stands alone against harsh, vile men and their mechanical machines of murderous mayhem. One child, his moral code and his mighty fists that mirror his even mightier heart. Can he hope to prevail in a world where only the most vicious and brutal thrive?

    Ulises Fariñas and Erick Freitas pen this weird sci-fi story, "Motro." It is a very, very offbeat story about a child in a post-apocalyptic world who has lost so much and is fighting to keep it together and to keep his vision of the world alive. Even though the protagonist is super-powered, he is both physically and psychologically vulnerable. He is not your average tough guy hero - in a mean and hateful world, he retains his kindness and gentleness, yet with fists that hit like jackhammers. The protagonist doesn't show any of the stereotypical signs of masculinity - no "bring-it-on" attitude, no bulging muscles, no desire to rush head-on into adventure and conflict; rather, he is a peaceful warrior who would rather just be peaceful. He seeks to live out the code that his beloved father taught him - and he does so with tenderness, tears, and a burning desire to do what is right even if the cost of that is violence. In this world that Fariñas and Freitas have created, vehicles seem to live, communicating with their partners in emoji-filled word bubbles. It seems to me that the authors are trying to do something different with the traditional American action hero, giving their protagonist a rare softness to contrast with the power of his fists. Interesting. Ryan Hill provides the simple, cartoony, yet very expressive pencils. It's a simple-looking book that is seemingly exploring some not-so-simple themes about masculinity, strength, and weakness. "Motro" #1 is not my cup of tea; however, Fariñas, Freitas and Hill have created such an interesting protagonist, I will probably stick around for a few more issues. Again, "Motro" is a very offbeat story with a very offbeat protagonist - it's not for everyone. But I'd give this one a try, you just might find that you like it. I did.

RATING: 8 out of 10. 

PS - I have a feeling that this book had a pretty small first print run. 

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Masked #1 Review

"Masked" #1 from Titan Comics -

     The city of Paris is changing, and not for the better. With the appointment of Joel Beauregard to the position of Special Prefect of Greater Paris, the city has gotten darker, more segregated, more tense, more violent. He is using his expansive authority in ways that are turning Paris into a huge, futuristic metropolis, but at the same time, these changes seem to be affecting the collective psyche of the people of the city for the worse. And then there are the anomalies - graffiti-like writing, tiny robots and mechanical monsters - that have been popping up, seemingly from nowhere, causing fear and havoc all over the city.  But the biggest puzzle is the masked humans showing up with super-powers. No one knows where the come from, or who they are. Ex-Sgt, Frank Braffort, was a Peacekeeper with the French forces working to keep the peace on the Georgian-Russian border. However, after a terrible attack that destroys his unit leaving only him and one of his soldiers alive, Frank is blamed for their deaths and court-martialed out the military...But Frank has a secret. That day he and his soldier were all but dead until an anomaly, a super-powered human, saved them. Now, a struggling private citizen of Paris, Frank wonders, like everyone else, what is going on with the city. However, when the Head of Security for the Special Prefect of Greater Paris mysteriously summons Frank to a press conference, Frank will embark on a journey that will begin with a terrifying face-to-face confrontation with a murderous mechanical monster out for the Prefect's blood!

    From the remarkable mind of French science-fiction author, Serge Lehman, comes this stunning, futuristic tale of metaphysical mayhem. From the outset, it is easy to see that this will not be your average, run-of-the-mill, skin-and-bones science-fiction story - one that has been simplified for the comic book format. Lehman takes his time and introduces his protagonist's past life correctly, helping the reader to connect with him. Then we while we watch the protagonist living a normal day in his life, Lehmam introduces us to the world he has created through media news reports, à la Frank Miller. I was instantly sucked into Braffort's life, and I was sucked into Lehman's gritty futuristic world, a world brimming with that familiar brilliance and heaviness of classic French sci-fi stories by writers like Moebius, or those fascinating old stories found in magazines like Heavy Metal (Métal Hurlant). Told in a cinematic style, Lehman's story develops slowly, but by the end, the reader is fully immersed, caught up on most of what's happening with the protagonist and with the city, and ready for the action-packed finale. Besides this, Lehman is choosing to deal with some pretty heavy metaphysical themes in this work - exactly what one would expect from any self-respecting French science-fiction author nourished on the works of the famous French philosophers. The question of reality is at the forefront it seems, what it is and how collective human consciousness can affect it, along with causality - similar to ideas developed by Descartes, Durkheim, and others, and oversimplified in the very fun film, "Tomorrowland." I just cannot wait to see how far down the rabbit-hole this book can go. If this all weren't enough, the four-page prose tie-in story in the back of the book is simply amazing, and in the comic story, Stépane Créty lays down some absolutely gorgeous, busy pencils that keep your eyes wandering all through the panels as you greedily consume the story and art in one massive feast for your mind. Lehman and Créty have killed it on this first issue and I am definitely sticking around for the entire ride.

RATING: 10 out of 10. This little quiet storm of a comic looks like it may be a sci-fi masterpiece in the making.

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Three Stooges #1 Review

"The Three Stooges" #1 from America Mythology Productions -

      Join America's favorite knuckleheads in new adventures! Watch the hijinks when Curly, Moe and Larry take a gig selling concessions at a baseball game. Then the boys tear up the town as private-eyes looking to help a blonde bombshell recover compromising photos from a big-time gangster. Finally get your classic "nyuk-nyuks" in  a reprint from an old Dell comic when the lovable lunkheads take a job at the circus, and Curly gets his shot at being a lion-tamer! Hilarity will ensue...And I ain't LION! 

      The Three Stooges are back in the pages of this fun little anthology, "The Three Stooges" #1. And it's good to have the boys back. Sure you'll see those zany classic gags like face slaps and eye-pokes, along with those lightning-fast one-liners, but for a fan of The Three Stooges, it never gets old. The stories mirror the set up of many of the old films - the boys have a new job, and we get to laugh our butts off as they bungle their way through trying to do it. We know it is going to be a disaster with lots of fun on the way to the finale. Writer S.A. Check pens the first story in the book, giving us the Stooges as they screw up an entire baseball game trying to sell peanuts and sodas. There are some nice chuckles in this one, with cartoony, Archie-like art from artist Bill Galvan. J.C. Vaughn writes the second story that finds the boys up against the mob on behalf of a blonde looker. This story is the funnier of the new stories - the hijinks had higher energy, and it had more of a classic-Three-Stooges feel to it. Artists, Brendan and Brian Fraim put some really nice pencils down on this one. Finally, we get a reprint from Dell #1170 (1942), and by far, this feels the most like a Three Stooges classic...I guess...Well...Because it actually is. It is a HUGELY entertaining, totally zany tale from writer, Jerry Belson, and artist Sparky Moore. All in all, "Three Stooges" #1 is a whole lot of good, clean fun like they just don't do anymore in comics or films. These stories took me back to those lazy Sundays with my grandma watching old Tarzan and Flash Gordon films, and those crazy Three Stooges shorts. Good times. If you're in the mood for wackiness or feeling nostalgic, this book won't disappoint - you even get some cool fun facts about the Stooges! What's not to like?

RATING: 8 out of 10 for pure nutty fun. The Three Stooges put the "comic" back into comic book.

Let's sign off with a Three Stooges classic, "Disorder In the Court" from 1936.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Namesake #1 Review

"Namesake" #1 from BOOM! Studios -

      The Blessing has come. Every seven years, Earth is able to come into perfect dimensional alignment with Ektae, a world where magic and alchemy are not only commonplace, they are the driving forces behind it's economic and political might. The night of the Blessing is always out of control - humans head to Ektae and some from Ektae come to Earth in an unbridled, and often dangerous, exchange of magic and sexual energies. Jordan Molossus is a fireman tasked with saving lives from dangers of both normal and magical causes. But Jordan has a secret: he was an orphan of both Ektae and Earth, having one parent from each planet, both of which abandoned him. Having received a cryptic message from one of his long-lost, now dead, parents, Jordan sets off to Ektae to fulfill a final request: to bury his parents together on Ektae. But Jordan may be the one who ends up buried on Ektae - he's carrying the ashes of his dead parents in iron balls, a substance emphatically outlawed on Ektae, and he's got a price on his head, a price offered by a very dangerous man. 

    Steve Orlando scribes "Namesake" #1 from BOOM! Studios. It's a science-fiction/fantasy piece that feels a bit like Blade Runner (in certain panels) because of Jakub Rebelka's artwork that is alternately moody and gritty, then overly cartoony and stiff. And honestly, Rebelka's artwork is the highlight of this book, because as hard as I looked, I could not find any way to be interested in the characters, nor the story. Orlando attempts to build his world by throwing us right into the story, which is a great technique, but along the way we are offered very little backstory about the Earth and Ektae's ties and how they came to be. Neither are we offered a coherent backstory on the protagonist, just the fact that his parents were of both worlds, that he's a gruff fireman, and that someone really bad with magic powers wants the dirty done on him. These things may work well to start off a film where the gaps get filled in pretty quickly, but in a 22-page comic everything seems rushed, disjointed, and a bit pointless. The most important part, the development of a connection between the reader and the characters, is totally neglected, just nonexistent. I knew why Jordan Molossus was headed to Ektae, I just didn't care about him, nor his quest. I really just wanted this book to be over - and it is rare that I feel in such a way. I cannot recommend this book, neither will I be sticking around for any further issues. It is a shame. "Namesake" seems to have such potential, but you just have got to stick the landing on that first issue. Not feeling it.

RATING: 4 out of 10. 

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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Ether #1 Review

"Ether" #1 from Dark Horse Comics -

     In the near future, Earth has discovered magic. Real, true magic. But one man doesn't believe in magic, or faith, or anything except numbers, data, information...FACTS. Dr. Boon Dias uses the Crossroads, a gateway between Earth and the magical realm of The Ether, to enter the mystical metropolis called Agartha in order to suss out the science behind what Earthmen call magic. After many forays into The Ether and Agartha, Boon has made some friends, some acquaintances...And some enemies. Boon's insatiable scientific curiosity has made him somewhat famous in Agartha as he was able to use science to follow clues and solve crimes that the supernatural citizens of the city just weren't equipped to handle. When the mighty protector of the Ether, The Blaze, is assassinated in a puzzling manner, Boon is summoned by the mayor of Agartha to find her killer. Boon, and his friend, Glum, The Gatekeeper of the Crossroads, are hot on the trail of the murderer - but they already have a suspect, and he is the most learned, most dangerous man in Agartha. Can Boon and Glum reach the end of this case successfully...Or will the case end them once and for all?

   Matt Kindt puts his creative genius to work to build a fun fantasy realm in "Ether" #1. Kindt gives us a protagonist that takes a while to grow on you in Boon Dias. He is a bit of a butthole, concerned mostly with mapping out the science behind the magic, and little else. It takes us a while to really be captivated by the zany genius of Boon simply because Kindt chooses to show his character through action and dialogue rather than using captions to give us a glimpse into his inner workings. However, once Boon gets going, it is a lot of fun - like watching a mix of Sherlock Holmes and The Doctor thrust into a realm of magic to solve crimes that simply don't follow the physical laws of our universe. Kindt builds an otherworldly realm that seems pulled right out of a child's wildest dream, full of wonder and strange, but mostly friendly, characters. It is an interesting world, but there aren't many particulars about it just yet, which makes me think that Kindt was more focused on the story than the world where it takes place. I hope that changes. Kindt taps David Rubin to build his crazy magical world, and Rubin hit the perfect tone with his pencils - his work is wild, over-the-top, and cartoony. It is a joy to see page after page. Kindt and Rubin may just have created a fun, and slightly tragic, character and a mystical realm of mysteries and marvels that have the potential to captivate readers for years to come. I love this book - and I love the fact that I can share it with my daughter. Perfect.

RATING: 10 out of 10. This property "movie / TV show" written all over it.

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Grand Passion #1 Review

"Grand Passion" #1 from Dynamite -

     Steve and Mabel are a modern day Bonnie and Clyde. They live out their days for the thrill of the hunt, and the adrenaline of taking that which doesn't belong to them. Different towns, unpredictable strategies, different banks - they all fall one by one to the courageous cunning of the larcenous lovers. It seems that this duo is unstoppable, that their love should be an adrenaline-stoked fire...But secretly, in her deepest places, Mabel is lonely, unfulfilled, incomplete. In Fair Valley County, Illinois, James "Mac" McNamara has just moved there and landed a position as a sheriff's deputy. He goes about his life day to day doing his job as well as he is able and doing his best to fit into a small town where he is considered to be an outsider, even by those he has to trust with his life. A solemn man, James is also a widower, passing his time in a haze of pain and loneliness. But life is about to spin wildly out of control for both James and Mabel in a way neither could ever imagine. When Steve and Mabel decide to hit Fair Valley's bank, James, and his partner, show up to stop them; however, when Mabel and James lock eyes, a fire is lit, a passion is ignited like neither of them of have ever felt before. They only problem is that both of their partners end up dead...And love or no love, James and Mabel are out for vengeance. There will be blood. 

    James Robinson writes this very interesting tale of modern-day star-crossed lovers in "Grand Passion" #1. Despite not being very attracted to the romantic genre of comics, I felt intrigued enough by this story to pick it up and check it out. I was in no way disappointed. Robinson gives us a Greek Chorus-like narrator that has shades of omniscience. Utilizing the captions, the narrator gives us the settings, the backstories, even candid glimpses into the inner lives of the characters - but the narrator never makes an appearance.  Through the narrator's eyes, we, like the narrator become fascinated with these characters, their motivations and their emptiness. I was left wondering who the narrator was, why they knew so much, and what part they played in the tragedy that was about to unfold for James and Mabel. Tom Feister's art communicated Robinson's story amazingly here. Feister drew faces that were so expressive that it was haunting sometimes - he knows how to makes the eyes of his characters truly speak their emotions. Sure Feister's work can be a bit blocky at times, and there was a sex scene with human bodies in a position that seemed a bit unnatural, but overall, Feister hit the mark with emotional content for his artwork, which is really what I think this book is all about. I love the premise of this book. How hugely tragic it must be to have to murder your soulmate and all your dreams with your own two hands. I am all in. 

RATING: 8.75 out of 10. 

CAVEAT: This book has mature themes and nudity. FOR MATURE READERS ONLY.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Red Dog #1 Review

"Red Dog" #1 from 451 Media Group -

        Far, far into the future, the planet, Kirawan, is the worst place. Ever. At least, that's what Kyle thinks. Kyle is a young human boy, the only child in a lonely human colony set on wasteland planet with an atmosphere extremely hostile to human habitation. Kyle, his loving mother, his gruff, hardworking father, and 193 other men and women are part of a charter colony mining for the most sought after element in the universe, Imperium, an element with properties that promise the realization of time travel. A lonely colony is even lonelier for a child with no friends his age; luckily, Kyle has Q, his beloved mechanical dog crafted for him by his doting uncle there in the colony. Kyle passes his days doing chores and schoolwork and playing with Q. But everything is about to change. Kirawan is an inhabited planet, and the denizens don't take kindly to uninvited guests. When the outgoing shipment of Imperium is attacked, the men of the colony take up arms to defend their export and their new home...And it looks like a curious Kyle is about to get trapped in the crossfire. Growing up on Earth is tough enough, but growing up on Kirawan just might be deadly. 

     From Rob Cohen, the director of "The Fast and the Furious," and "XXX," comes this pretty wonderful sci-fi coming-of-age tale, "Red Dog." Cohen does a perfect job of worldbuilding here, giving us a succinct, but satisfying, description of Kirawan, the human colony settled there, and the element, Imperium, that is the driving force behind the Earth-based economy. Told in caption boxes in the words of the protagonist, Kyle, Cohen effortlessly introduces us to his universe, and his protagonist. In only three pages, we feel very familiar with Kyle. Even better, we begin to care about him as we watch him trying to leave his childhood behind, struggling to be everything his father wants him to be, an effort that leaves him feeling as barren as the wasteland planet he inhabits. Cohen has created and an immensely interesting world and a young protagonist that elicited emotions from me that made me need to continue my journey with him. And I will do just that. Rob Atkins was on the pencils for "Red Dog" #1. His artwork was a bit stiff at times, but it was cinematic, fun and especially emphasized the tech elements of the story. "Red Dog is the classic "a-boy-and-his-dog" tale with some hostile bug-like aliens on an equally hostile planet - all metaphors for the various and sundry dangers a kid must successfully navigate on his / her way to adulthood. I'm a sucker for a sci-fi bildungsroman. 

RATING: 9 out of 10. This might be a sleeper hit, and I'm betting it will eventually make its way to the big or little screen. 

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

A.D. After Death Book One Review

"A.D. After Death" Book One from Image Comics -

      Death is no more. Humanity has found a cure for the ultimate ailment and is now free to live forever...If "free" is the word for it. One man, Jonah Cooke, is meandering through the first millennia of his immortality, tending to his assignments, and pondering the loss of his loved ones, and the trajectory that his own life has taken. And he steals things. All sorts of things. Things that remind him of important moments in life, moments that can never be recovered, moments that mark brighter spots in the endless stream of time, a stream in which he is doomed to swim forever and ever. Jonah also looking for signs of life in the world below, the world once inhabited by man, now gone except for the survivors, the ones who were able to ingest the cure. Jonah is tormented by his past, trapped in his present, and burdened by the part he played in gifting man with eternal life. Eternity and madness collide in "A.D. After Death." 

   "A.D. After Death" Book One comes from the brilliant minds of Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire - it is not really a comic book, neither is it a prose work - rather, it is a magnificent hybrid that ensnares the reader from the very first page. This is a melancholy, pensive, work that at times threatens to suffocate the reader beneath the weight of its sadness and longing. In fact, those are indeed the best words to describe the protagonist, Jonah Cooke, and the book itself, "full of sadness and longing." The story is mostly told in the first person by Jonah, describing his struggle with death, as he is forever trapped in the moments of the loss of his beloved mother and his unborn sibling, crushed beneath the weight of knowing life would end. He was once obsessed with capturing those ephemeral, ebullient moments for when the inevitable dark days descended - it is the reason he stole his first tape recorder; now, Jonah steals things to remember bright moments in a life that will never come to an end. Quite a sharp contrast. There has always been a gaping hole in Jonah's life, first caused by the fear of death, now caused by the eternal ache of an endless life. I cannot wait to find out what part he played in freeing man from death, and what he hopes to find in the world below. Snyder's mournful tale is communicated perfectly by Lemire's equally mournful artwork, all done in Lemire's signature watercolors. "A.D. After Death" Book One is not a comic 
for everyone - no capes and tights - just a haunting, character-driven science fiction tale that stays with you after the back cover closes and the journey is done. This book asks us to think about what is actually more horrifying, death or a life without end? Brilliant.

RATING: 9 out of 10. Are there tears in Heaven? Snyder and Lemire whisper the answer: "yes."

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Friday, November 25, 2016


Hey there comics fans!!

     It's me, TEX, back again to light up your life with all that comics knowledge that you can't get in any college!

     So who is the star of our show today? It's someone wonderful, marvelous, someone...TERRIFIC!!

    No, no, no, my friends. We're not talking about the Spectre, we're talking about Mr. Terrific II, Michael Holt! That's right, Mr. Terrific II first appeared in in 1997 in the pages of the above book, Spectre vol 3, #54. He was created by John Ostrander (the genius who revived and revamped The Suicide Squad in the 1980s) and Tom Mandrake. I am stoked...I've got two copies of this book. Why? Because Mr. Terrific II is one of my favorite superheroes in the DCU.

    The original Mr. Terrific was Terry Sloane, a genius,  businessman, athlete and vigilante who found his purpose in life in the early 1940s fighting crime and defending "fair play." He was a valiant member of the Justice Society of America, the predecessor of the Justice League of America. Sloane met his death in comics in the late 1970s in issue #171 of The Justice League of America vol 1 at the hands of the murderous villain, Spirit King.

EXTRA: Terry Sloane returned as a major player in the DC series, "Earth 2" and "Earth 2: Society." These series were overlooked, but extremely well-written.

   Michael Holt was a self-made multi-millionaire, a renowned inventor, C.E.O. of his own successful tech firm, Olympic gold medalist, and a polymath of staggering intellect and aptitude. By the time Holt was an adult, he'd completed 14 Ph.D.s in several fields of study, including Psychology, Engineering, Physics, Law, Mathematics, Chemistry and Political Science. However, even all of his accomplishments and success couldn't save Holt from the harsh blows that life often brings. The deaths of his mentally handicapped older brother, Jeffrey, and the deaths of his wife, Paula, and his daughter fell upon him in rapid succession like a ton of bricks. Michael Holt was considering suicide - but a chance encounter with The Spectre changed Holt's life forever. The Spectre told him about Terry Sloane, the first Mr. Terrific, and Michael Holt was inspired to continue Sloane's heroic work as  the new Mr. Terrific. On to the fun facts!!

FUN FACT 1: Despite his awesomeness, Mr. Terrific has only had one attempt at an ongoing series:

Here is my copy of Mr. Terrific vol 1, #1, published as a part of the New 52 reboot in 2011. It was excellently written, and beautifully drawn, but it only lasted eight glorious issues. 

FUN FACT 2: Mr. Terrific is one of the top three intellects on the planet. He has been said to "have an aptitude for having aptitudes." Holt's talent for learning is unparalleled in the DCU (non-powered humans), he can absorb knowledge at an astonishing rate, and pick up and retain complex skills that it takes others a lifetime to master. 

FUN FACT 3: Mr. Terrific is multilinguistic, has mastered six martial arts disciplines making him one of the most formidable human fighters on the planet, and he is an Olympic Gold Medalist in the decathlon. Traditionally, Olympic decathlon gold medalists are considered The World's Greatest Athlete.

FUN FACT 4: Eventually, Mr. Terrific became the Chairman of the Justice Society of America (he was elected by his teammates even though he wasn't seeking the position), and he served as the White King's Bishop in the United Nations Security Council's intelligence agency, Checkmate. In time, he led the agency as the White King. 

FUN FACT 5: Mr. Terrific invents his own crime-fighting tech. His T-Mask renders him invisible to all electronic detection, helps him control his T-Spheres, and gives him the power to instantaneously convert back and forth between his two personas, Michael Holt and Mr. Terrific. His T-Spheres bear his weight as devices of flight, and they can project holograms, link with any network, generate deadly electrical charges or just act as projectile-type weapons. 

FUN FACT 6: Mr. Terrific's origin was changed with the NEW 52 reboot. In the New 52, Holt's wife's death was caused by the villain, Brainstorm, and it was not The Spectre who inspired Holt to not to end his life, rather it was Holt's own unborn son appearing to him in a message from the future. 

FUN FACT 7: If you think the Batcave is awesome, you should get a load of Mr. Terrific's T-Sanctuary, an impenetrable, high-tech fortress hidden away in the Ninth Dimension:

FUN FACT 8: I am a huge fan of Mr. Terrific. I've even got the action figure:

FUN FACT 9: In the hit TV show, "Justice League Unlimited," Mr. Terrific was shown to be a member; however, in comics, Mr. Terrific has never been a member of the JL.

FUN FACT 10: Michael Holt is an atheist. 

FUN FACT 11: Mr. Terrific is portrayed on the TV series, "Arrow" by comedian, Echo Kellum, serving largely as a lovable goofball, a tech guy and a helping hand with IT issues...Oh, and as Felicity's bestie. 

Several changes were made to the character. Mr. Terrific's name was changed from Michael to Curtis, his sexuality was changed from straight to gay (not problematic for me), his prodigious intellect is hardly apparent and his Ph.D.s are not mentioned, he does not own his own tech firm, his Olympic medal was downgraded from gold to bronze (why?), and his serious demeanor was tossed in favor of a more emotional, bumbling, good-hearted personality. Mr. Terrific is essentially a rival to Batman, but on Arrow, he's not even competent enough to be a good sidekick. I don't like it. Not one bit. But, I'll hang around in the hopes that change will come. 

     That's it for today cowpokes! Do yourselves a favor: if you only know Mr. Terrific from "Arrow," grab a few comics starring our hero, and find out what he can REALLY do. I promise, you'll be a fan in no time. 

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Vigilante Southland #1 Review

"Vigilante: Southland" #1 from DC Comics

     Donny Fairchild, ex-basketball star of the European Pro-Leagues, is now an aimless, weed-puffing janitor at Del Pueblo University in South Los Angeles. Even though it seems Donny's lost all desire to make something out of his life, he's managed to snag one of the brightest stars on campus, Dorice Smallwood. Dorice is a real go-getter - she's a beautiful, highly intelligent, athletic, and tenacious young woman who speaks out against injustice wherever she finds it. But there is much more to her than that. What no one knows is that by night, Dorice is a vigilante fighting corruption in South L.A.. When Dorice is horribly murdered, Donny discovers her secret and sets out to may her killers pay...By any means necessary. Donny is awake, he is angry and he is out for justice, honoring his beloved Dorice by learning to use his brains, and her weapons - and by donning her midnight-blue vigilante costume. War is coming to South L.A..

     Cary Phillips pens this new take on The Vigilante. It looks as if this new iteration has nothing to do with any of the former characters who have been called by the same name. This series seems to be in a totally new direction with totally new characters. It is a gritty mystery disguised as a superhero story, and that is kind of exciting. Donny Fairchild is a very relatable character - he is lethargic, oblivious, unattentive, allowing his abilities to be wasted and the world to pass him by. That all changes when he loses the one good person in his life, the only one who hadn't given up on him. It is awesome to watch the fire ignite in him and to watch him change so drastically. I wish we knew a bit more about the antagonist(s) - all we know is that Dorice found out something that got her killed, and we know that someone had discovered her identity since she was killed in broad daylight on the street. Donny has his work cut out for him, and he is working with some unsavory people to avenge Dorice, which means this story is bound to become very complex and deal with some hard questions in coming issues. Elena Casagrande is on the pencils and uses light and shadow excellently to give the story a gritty, hefty feel. And the story is both gritty and hefty - it is about an urban, street-level superhero trying to solve a mystery that will lead him into a vertical struggle against extreme corporate corruption. It's seemingly a battle he can't win. But I've always been a sucker for the underdog. I'll stick around for a few issues and see where this goes; I have a feeling it's going very dark places. Cool.

RATING: 8 out of 10.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Die Kitty, Die! #1 Review

"Die Kitty, Die!" #1 from Chapter House Comics -

     Kitty is a buxom, beautiful, red-headed bombshell of a woman with a heart as big as Texas. How could you get any better than that? Easy - at last in Kitty's case. She's an honest to goodness, magic-slinging, shape-shifting witch whose real-life hijinks and adventures have been documented for many years in the pages of wildly popular comic books which also spawned equally popular live-action TV shows, cartoons and toy lines. Unfortunately, those days are gone. The comic book industry isn't what it used to be, and people have moved on from the days of feel-good fun, and so have publishers. Events, cross-overs, zombies, and gimmicks are what move comics now, and Kitty's publishers have tried all these things to put Kitty back on the map once more. Kitty is sad and worried; she has no clue about what to do. But her publishers do. They hatch a plot so exciting, so wicked, so utterly evil and ingenious, it's sure to put Kitty's comics back on top...While making sure Kitty ends up six feet under.  Some publishers would kill for a hit comic. Literally.

     Fernando Ruiz, and comics legend, Dan Parent, pull double duty writing and illustrating this not-so-subtle critique of the state of the comic book industry, "Die Kitty, Die!" #1. In this book, Parent unleashes his disappointment with, and displeasure towards, how the comic book industry has changed. Parent laments a bygone age and disappearing characters that once created fun little worlds for comics fans to inhabit for just a small escape from the heaviness of the workaday world. As one of Archie Comics' premier artists for many years, it is no surprise that Parent used clones of our favorite Archie characters to get his points across - Kitty is similar to Sabrina, The Teenage Witch (but way hotter) - but he also pulls some Harvey Comics faves out of mothballs too -Dippy The Dead Kid is similar to Casper The Friendly Ghost, and Li'L Satan (seen in a photo) recalls one of my most beloved Harvey characters, Hot Stuff. Parent and Ruiz take deadly aim at Archie Comics and offer up a scathing criticism on their use of gimmicks in recent years; even artists aren't safe as Parent roasts superstar artists who cannot seem to do work which is both fast and good, which leads to delays in comic production. WOW! They really let it all hang out here, all while crafting a fun, entertaining story, even if it does get a bit preachy at times. Love it or hate it, you have to give Parent credit for using his art form to bravely express himself (which is what art is for) - I mean, he is just saying what many of us older fans have thought for years anyway (in some cases). All in all, "Die Kitty, Die" #1 is a very interesting, quite entertaining book with classic Dan Parent artwork and humor with a little added raunch that places this book in the T+ category. I will stick around for this one. Dan definitely has more to say.

RATING: 8 out of 10 for fun, and the "Oh, no he didn't!" factor in Parent's biting analysis of some parts of the comics industry. If you are an over-forty comics fan, you probably don't want to miss this one. If you're much younger, you might enjoy this comic too - it can give you a bit of insight into what us, erhm.."mature" dudes are often complaining about when it comes to the modern state comics.

FUN FACT: Dan Parent is the creator of Kevin Keller, Archie Comics' first openly homosexual character.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

He-Man / ThunderCats #1 Review

"He-Man / ThunderCats" #1 from DC Comics -

      Mumm-Ra The Ever-Living is one of the most powerful beings in all Creation; however, he has faced defeat after crushing defeat on Third Earth at the hands of Lion-O and his relentless ThunderCats. It seems like their battle will be eternal, but the Ancient Spirits of Evil, the mighty beings that give Mumm-Ra the immense power he possesses, have tired of his constant failures. They have decided to craft an endgame - they have hatched a plan to help Mumm-Ra obliterate the threat of the ThunderCats once and for all. They have learned of a magnificent weapon of unparalleled might in another dimension called The Sword of Power, and they plan to help Mumm-Ra crack open the dimensional veil to get it. But this will be no easy task; the Sword of Power is on a very special planet called Eternia, the first of all Creation, a paradise planet shielded with ancient mystical might, and a mighty guardian called He-Man, the most powerful man in that universe. But that is only part of the plan, the Ancient Spirits of Evil have made a side deal with someone on Eternia, someone remarkably evil, full of very old hatred and very old dark powers. Is this the beginning of the end for He-Man, Eternia, and the ThunderCats?

    Rob David and Lloyd Goldfine write this rousing dream team-up between two of the greatest American-produced cartoon series heroes of all time: He-Man and the ThunderCats! This first issue of "He-Man / ThunderCats" #1 cranks it up to eleven, with a well-thought out plot, great character development, and a huge, heaping helping of fantasy action that will make your teeth chatter! The Ancient Spirits of Evil show Mumm-Ra what evil really is, we experience the strain of Prince Adam's relationship with his father, and we feel Lion-O's doubts and Panthro's loyalty...And Mumm-Ra does something so horrible to Prince Adam that the reader realizes without a shadow of a doubt that things have just gotten REAL on Eternia. Your favorite characters come together in this blazing fantasy adventure, illustrated by Freddie E. Williams' insanely gorgeous pencils and Jeremy Colwell's deep, rich, highly saturated colors. I have no idea who Williams is, but it is clear that the man is an immense talent, and that he takes this book VERY seriously. His panels are bursting with action, magic, expression, and they are full of to the brim with coolness for the eyes to feast on. This is the He-Man / ThunderCats crossover that we deserve. Welcome back to real fantasy - welcome back to your childhood.

RATING: 10 out of 10 for total fantastical fun, and a trip back to those halcyon days of childhood when we could wrap ourselves in fantasy like warm blanket in the winter.

CAVEAT: If you weren't a fan of the shows and comics as a child, you may not enjoy this comic as much as I did. However, if you did love the shows and comics, prepare to go bonkers!

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Wolf Cop #1 Review

"Wolf Cop" #1 from Dynamite - 

       Ex-cop, and alcoholic, Lou Garou (get it? Loup-garou?), and his buddy, Willie, are on the run. Lou is wanted for two counts of murder due to his...Condition. You see, Lou becomes a nearly indestructible werewolf when the moon is high - half man, half wolf, all cop - and Lou enforces the law with a bloodthirsty, booze-driven vengeance. Out on the backroads of the Canadian wilderness, Lou and Willie are seeking to find a place to call home, but when they run afoul of some savage, homicidal bikers, Lou and Willie end up beat up, tied up and on their way to becoming meals for the cannibal king of the biker gang. These bikers are used to being the apex predators of these parts, but they are about to find out just what an apex predator REALLY looks like. But Wolf Cop won't have an easy fight...There's more to the cannibal king than meets the eye. This time is the wolf the predator...or the prey?! 

    Writer, Max Marks, brings us this rip-roaring, action-packed gore-fest of a horror B-movie in comic book form. There is nothing really deep to analyze about this comic - it is just what it presents itself to be - a wild, bloody, gore-filled horror comedy. Despite all the f-bombs dropped in this book, I found myself laughing at the foul-mouthed, bumbling, loyal Willie, as he does his best to watch the back of his best friend who just happens to be a brooding, drunken, jaded werewolf ex-cop. I couldn't wait to see the bikers get theirs, and I was also pleasantly pleased that this story had an antagonist that actually gave Wolf Cop a run for his money. This comic won't change the world, but it will provide you with 10 to 12 minutes of nutty, gory fun and adventure. Please understand that this comic is NOT for everyone - it is definitely not for those with tender sensibilities. This is a throwback low-budget, grindhouse, supernatural horror films - I was pleased to find that this was actually a sequel to a horror film of the same name from 2014:

Looks like fun, don't it?

RATING: 8 out of 10 - simply for the amount of mindless fun I had reading this comic.

CAVEAT: If you like your comics deep, layered and profound, this book is NOT for you. This book is NOT for children, not for those with weak constitutions.

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Inspector Oh #1 Review

Inspector Oh #1 - From Devil's Due / 1First Comics -

      Inspector Oh is a supernatural detective...A detective who has been missing for eight years. Why? Apparently, on his first case, he went and got himself trapped in one of the several Chinese hells. Now running for his very soul, Oh has been separated from his body and seemingly has lost all of his memories. And he's going a little mad. But not to worry, his faithful niece, Ziyi, has come to save him, and along with her biting wit and her dazzling martial arts skills, she's brought a resurrection pearl, the only thing that can save Detective Oh and bring him back to life. Will Oh consume the pearl and return to life, or will his madness trap him and Ziyi in the Chinese hells forever?

    Just when you thought the all-ages comic was dead, the Yuan Twins, Matt and John, score a slam dunk with "Detective Oh" #1! Full of Chinese mythology, comedy, and martial arts mayhem, "Detective Oh" #1 is a really fun comic that can be just as easily read by kids as by adults. I REALLY dig that. Mixing Chinese mythology, with a pulp-style Chinese hero that has shades of the wildly popular character, Detective Dee (based on the real historical figure, Di Renjie), the Yuan Twins create a fantastic world of supernatural adventure for the entire family. Matt Yuen does triple duty, not only co-writing the comic, but he also lays down the pencils and the colors - and he does it well. His simplistic, straight-forward, cartoony approach to illustrating this story is absolutely perfect for a story of this genre and reminds me a lot of the style you'd find in classic Chinese animation, like the classic cartoon, The Chinese Gods (Feng shen bang) from the 1970s. In fact, I think that this story would make a great cartoon...If kids had time to watch them anymore. I think I'll be keeping "Detective Oh" on my pull list, and sharing it with my daughter.

RATING: 8 out of 10. 

And if you're interested, here's the trailer for "Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame":

And here is a clip of 1976 animated film, "The Chinese Gods (Feng shen bang)":

And you can find the entire film in English here.

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Intertwined #1 Review

"Intertwined" #1 from Dynamite -

    Jin Juan is a fearless street tough from Sham Shui Po, one of Hong Kong's poorest areas. It seemed like Jin Juan was headed nowhere until he found out about the ancient art Wing Chun. Under the tutelage of one of China's best masters, Jin Juan seeks to bring honor the to Fang Dan Martial Arts School by winning the upcoming Southeast Asia Open Martial Arts Tournament. But life on the mean streets Hong Kong can be tough - Jin Juan has to deal with the triad, and gangs like the Ghost Daggers who have taken notice of Jin Juan's martial prowess. All that, along with the loss of Jin Juan's father, and more recently, his beloved uncle, are pushing Jin Juan's coping skills to the limit - he has even begun to have strange dreams of flying, dreams in which powerful, shadowy figures ponder the future of the cosmos, and the balance of the Wu Xing, the Five Elements that rule the universe. When Jin Juan learns that his uncle has left him an inheritance, he prepares to take a trip to America, to NYC, to claim it; however, the Golden Daggers have different plans for him...And so do the shadowy figures from his dreams who are not only real, but they believe that Jin Juan will emerge as a major player in the future of the entire cosmos!

   Fabrice Sapolsky and Fred Pham Chuong pen this love letter to the Chinese martial arts action flicks of the 70's and 80s, "Intertwined!" "Intertwined" #1 is a kung fu flick in comic book form, following the same cliched, but oh-so-fun formulas of those great films that those of us over forty loved as kids. Gone are the days of Bruce Lee, Jimmy Wang Yu, and Angela Mao (well we still have Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung), but these days are alive in well in this fun little action-packed comic that features those familiar flavors of Eastern philosophies that many absorbed in the golden age of the kung-fu flick. While Sapolsky and Pham Chuong give us a great protagonist beginning his kung-fu quest, Verónica R. López gives sketchy, kinetic pencils that may seem a bit amateurish, but they communicate action very well, even explosively at times. López's art works well for this book. This comic is not for everyone, but if you are a fan of Hong Kong action cinema, you will probably dig "Intertwined." I do.

RATING: 8 out of 10. 

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Reborn #1 Review

"Reborn" #1 from Image Comics -

      Bonnie Black's life, like most lives, has been touched by beauty and marred by tragedy. Now in her very late 70's, after a stroke, she convalesces in a hospital struggling with the impending end of her life. As she reflects on her life - the love she once found, and the tragic way she lost it;  the happiness of having a child, and the heartbreaking deaths of her parents - Bonnie is at a loss to find meaning in her life, she cannot find the faith to quit herself like a woman and die with dignity like that of her lifelong best friend who passed six months ago. But when Bonnie has her final stroke, she surrenders expecting life to just end, expecting the world to just go dark like flicking off a light switch. Instead, she awakens, reborn young, strong, and beautiful in a savage, fantastic new world named Adystria where humans are locked in a fierce battle with the ruler of a horrific place called the Dark Lands. And that's not all, the humans believe that Bonnie is the savior that they have been waiting for to turn the tide of the battle. Is Bonnie really the protector of the oppressed tribes of Adystria, or is this a fever dream, a collapsing reality created by a dying human mind?

      Mark Millar has done it again. With "Reborn" #1, he has managed to create a protagonist so compelling and an origin story so full of depth and meaning that the reader is simply mesmerized long before Bonnie Black enters the wondrous world of Adystria as "the protector." As Bonnie struggles to accept the coming end of her life, Millar retools her end to make it a new beginning, a captivating origin story. Millar's writing is tight here, it explores some tender themes, and some mortifying fears that humans experience, fears that augment as one reaches the tipping point of life, the point where one realizes that there are fewer days of life ahead than there are behind. Faith, hope, perseverance, fear, and the big questions that hit all thinking people at some time in their lives: Do we even matter on a planetary or universal scale? Do our lives really mean anything?. Millar handles this all deftly in "Reborn" #1, and he is backed up by Greg Capullo and his magnificent pencils which give us big, busy, cinematic panels, expressive faces, and classic sci-fi action all in one magnificent book. Reborn is just top notch. Go get it. You'll be glad you did.

RATING: 10 out of 10. "Reborn" #1 is a revelation. 

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