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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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #1 Review

"Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love" #1 from DC Comics -

     Berenice's boyfriend Nathan has inherited a centuries-old mansion, Glencourt Manor, from his deceased uncle, prompting his and Berenice's move from their cozy apartment in the city into the foreboding mansion far into the countryside. Nathan is an author working feverishly to get his next book complete in the quiet solitude of the dusty manor-house, Berenice has decided to be an antique dealer; in fact, that is how she has met her only friend in the area, Sam, a transgender person with whom Berenice has a found a deep connection. What both Nathan and Sam don't know is that Berenice has a secret, a secret that would usually keep her away from old places, places where death has most certainly taken place. Berenice can see spirits, she can communicate with them. All her life she has suffered this terrible burden, eventually choosing to ignore the presence of the dead so that they won't be alerted to her ability, leaving her to lead some semblance of a normal life. Unfortunately, Berenice's quiet little life is turned on its head when Deadman shows up on her doorstep. Boston Brand, Deadman, has come to Glencourt Manor to fight a dark force inhabiting the house. Somehow, Deadman is trapped inside the home, unable to leave until he destroys the dark force, and he'll need Berenice's help - but the last thing Berenice wants to do is be involved in fighting ghosts. Can they work together to clear the house, and save themselves from the rising darkness that inhabits it? And why is Deadman unable to possess Berenice's friend, Sam? Is there more to them than meets the eye? Can Deadman ever hope to escape this dark, dark mansion?

   Sarah Vaughn pens the story in "Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love" #1, and it is absolutely riveting. Vaughn has scribed a captivating new gothic romance story, a story like those made famous in the 1950s, 60s and 70's by wonderful authors like Phyllis A. Whitney, and Joan Aiken. Gothic romance stories included elements of the supernatural and themes of death and romance. DC tried to tap into the genre's mostly female readership in the early 1970s when it launched "Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love"- a great, but hugely unsuccessful, endeavor. However, Vaughn breathes life into the genre, populating the story with interesting characters that possess real depth, and as an added benefit for the guys, Deadman gets tossed into the mix, and you get a multi-faceted story that can suck in any reader. Does Berenice love Nathan, or Sam, or both? Is Deadman a possible new love for her being that he can connect with her on the most intimate level? What has caused the awakening of the malignant entity, and who is the beautiful ghostly apparition that has appeared screaming in horror? This book just has it all - action, romance, horror, the supernatural - I love it. Add in Lan Medina's dainty, gorgeous, Nick Cardy-like pencils that showcase the expert use of light and shadow, and José Villarubia's masterful colors, and you have a well-written book that also looks better than 95% of the books being published today. I cannot wait to see where this book is headed!

RATING: 10 out of 10. "Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love" #1 proves that DC has a little something for everyone. Sure, at $5.99, this comic will hit your pocket a bit hard - but it is a prestige format book, and a labor of love, and it absolutely shows.

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Duck Avenger #1 Review

"Duck Avenger" #1 from IDW -

     By day Donald Duck is a not-so-mild-mannered caretaker of Ducklair Tower, property of his filthy rich uncle, Scrooge McDuck. But, by night, Donald is someone else...He is something else...He is...The Duck Avenger, masked do-gooder and protector of the city of Duckberg! With the aid of his super-powerful A.I., One, The Duck Avenger uses his amazing crime-fighting skills to defend Duckberg and give crime a black eye. But this time, Donald just might be way out of his league. When a seemingly unstoppable new foe, The Red Raider, causes mayhem in Duckberg, The Duck Avenger springs into action to clean Red Raider's clock...But he only ends up getting his own clock cleaned. Why? Because Red Raider  OWNS the clock...He can travel through time! How can The Duck Avenger hope to catch a criminal with time on his side? The Duck Avenger gets help along the way from a lovely reporter named Lyla. But who is she really? Why does she know so much about The Red Raider...And HOW does she know The Duck Avenger's secret identity?! Return to Duckberg and find out! Journey with The Duck Avenger!!

    Italian writers, Alessandro Sisti and Ezio Sisto drum up lots of action and lots of guffaws in "Duck Avenger" #1 from IDW and Disney. Although this story is technically a reprint (it was first printed in Italy in 1996), that doesn't take away from the pure Disney fun that fills this super-sized book. Fans of the Donald Duck-verse in comics will enjoy a return to their childhood, as well as those who were just fans of the TV show, "Duck Tales" back in the 1980s. Donald Duck has been quite a big deal in Europe for decades and so has his alter-ego, The Duck Avenger. So, it looks like, after a few false starts, Americans are finally getting a taste of the European awesomeness that we have missed out on. Artist Claudio Sciarrone's pencils are gorgeous, wacky and very busy. Lots of work went into this book, and it shows. Disney Italia's saturated colors over Sciarrone's pencils make this book lots of fun for the eyes to enjoy. Are you going to find any deep ideas or characters explorations in this book? Nope. Will you find a super-hero adventure with some resemblances to classic Disney romps with familiar, well-loved characters, along with dated pop culture references (Car 54, anyone?), and classic Disney yucks? Absolutely. If you are a Disney fan, I think you'll love this book. I sure did. 

CAVEAT: While it does have elements of a classic Disney story, it also feels like a semi-serious super-hero story with Donald as a pretty dogged and competent protagonist, instead of a lovable, nincompoop who needs anger-management classes. Remember, this is not Carl Barks' Donald Duck-verse. If you're interested, you can find out about the history of The Duck Avenger here.

RATING: 8 out of 10. I had a lot of fun reading this book.

HEADS UP: "Duck Tales" is set to return to TV in 2017!!

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: The Salmon of Doubt #1 Review

"Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: The Salmon of Doubt" #1 from IDW -

       Dirk Gently is back to solve another case...Holistically, of course. You see, Dirk doesn't concern himself with trivial things like fingerprints, and following clues to catch his culprits. Oh, pshaw - how utterly boring. Dirk is guided by the universe's invisible hand, choosing to count on the interconnectedness of all things to guide him to the resolution of his cases. It may seem weird to go traipsing all willy-nilly after tangential connections in random ways to solve a crime, but Dirk always gets his man, or woman...person. Well, you get it. However, Dirk's new case is quite different from any other that he's had before. Why? Because Dirk is his OWN CLIENT! It seems that Dirk's memories are being lost; no, he's not forgetting, rather he seems to be remembering extra occurrences that never happened. There seems to be some trouble with time! So, Dirk and his lovely assistant, nurse Sally Mills, hop the first thing smoking to Cambridge to his old alma mater to find an old colleague with an active time-travel device so that he can get tot the bottom of his morphing memory malaise. But things start to go pear-shaped when Sally's feelings for Dirk surface in an untimely manner, and Dirk's cat, Berenice is kidnapped by a jovial abomination. With his cat missing, a grumbly assistant in tow, and a time-traveling colleague that is a nuttier than a Payday, can Dirk Gently ever hope to solve his most baffling case yet?!

     Arvind Ethan David and Ilias Kyriazis are back again to give us their take on Doug Adams' iconic character, Dirk Gently. David is, once again, right on the money with the tone and pace for a Dirk Gently adventure. This first issue is so much fun to read - you'll get many hearty chuckles sifting through Dirk's zany thoughts in the caption boxes...Until you realize that Dirk is starting to win you over and make sense to you - and you might begin to question your own sanity. Dirk is such a great character because he takes himself very seriously while seeming to avoid taking himself, or the cases, very seriously at all. Yet, he never fails to get the job done, while being totally random and seemingly oblivious to how detecting actually works. Arvind Ethan David gives us great insight into Dirk's inner-workings in the caption boxes and weaves dialogue which appears whimsical and flighty but still manages to help the reader to understand the characters and their motivations while advancing the story forward, backward, or wherever David wants the reader to go. Ilias Kyriazis' art is even better than in "A Spoon Too Short" - he keeps the art pretty, cartoony, and uncomplicated. Kyriazis' pencils, coupled with Charlie Kirchoff's rich colors make this one gorgeous book. After the awesomeness of "A Spoon Too Short," I am very excited to see where "A Salmon of Doubt" takes me. Through someone's tampering with time, it looks like Dirk is about to get some serious retcons that will explain his new appearance, and walk us into what's been happening on the new, hit BBC America series, "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency." Here is a taste:

FUN FACT: This isn't the first Dirk Gently TV series. The first series starred Stephen Mangan, and it was an absolute hoot. I have no idea why on Earth it was canceled. Here's the trailer:

RATING: 9 out of 10. "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: The Salmon of Doubt" #1 is a lot of zany, tangential fun.

RATING for The New TV Show: 9 out of 10. The show is frantic, quirky entertainment.

RATING for The 2012 TV Show: 8.5 out of 10. Mangan was a revelation as Dirk Gently.

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Saturday, November 5, 2016

Doctor Strange!

(REVISED: 9 July 2018)


    The verdict is in..."Doctor Strange" is a HIT!! I took my wife and daughter to see the film in 3D, and it was a revelation. To me, this was one of the best of all the Marvel films so far, on par with my favorites: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and Black Panther. It was quite an experience; the acting had great depth, and I wasn't constantly barraged with a string of endless humorous quips which distracted me from the deep, and well-written story.

    But who is Doctor Strange? Created by the brilliant Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, Doctor Strange made his first appearance in "Strange Tales" #110 in 1963. Doctor Strange really showcased Ditko's creative genius, with his busy panels and imaginative, psychedelic style:

In this example, you can see what I was talking about. Note the "Ditko Sparkles." Similar to the "Kirby Krackle," the "Ditko Sparkles" could be considered one of Ditko's signature moves. The first time I ever saw it was in the pages of Space Adventures in the flight-wake of Ditko's powerhouse superhero, Captain Atom

Unfortunately, I sold this Strange Tales #110, like an idiot, for one-third of its value a few years ago - yes, it still stings - but I do have these:

These are my copies of "Doctor Strange" #169, which actually can be considered "Doctor Strange" vol 1, #1 since it is the first issue of his first solo title and ongoing series. It was published in 1968, several years after Doctor Strange's debut in ST #110, and well after Steve Ditko had moved on from Marvel. It would have been great to have Mr. Ditko pencil the first issue that kicked off his creation's very first solo title. While Doctor Strange's origin was initially given in ST #115, Doctor Strange #169 extended and deepened that origin to explosively start Doctor Strange's solo title. Just as in the film, Doctor Stephen Strange is a beyond brilliant, but self-absorbed, neurosurgeon who nearly destroys his hands in a terrible car accident. After bankrupting himself on treatments to restore his hands and return to the great surgeon he once was, he overhears two sailors, newly returned from Singapore, speak about someone called "The Ancient One," a mysterious, and possibly fictitious figure, who has the power to cure any ailment or injury. After a difficult quest to find the Ancient One, Dr. Strange finally finds him...And he also finds that The Ancient One's disciple, Mordo, is actually plotting to work in league with the mighty mystical monster, Dormammu, to destroy The Ancient One. After trying to save The Ancient One, Strange realizes that there are far greater battles to be fought against the powers of darkness, and he asks to be The Ancient One's new disciple, starting himself down the path that leads to his assuming the mantle of...The Sorcerer Supreme! This is an exceptional retelling of Strange's origin written by Roy Thomas, and penciled by Dan Adkins. The origin is given as a flashback, while Strange is resting in The Ancient One's retreat in the Himalayas.

    You can read this treasure online here. You're welcome. :-)

   Even though I may have lost my first, best Doctor Strange key issue, I still have a few others that you might find to be pretty cool - ALL with those amazing Ditko pencils! Check it:

I have a well-read copy of "Strange Tales" #123, published in 1964! This comic features the first appearance of The Beetle, and the first battle between Doctor Strange and Loki!

I also have a well-read copy of "Strange Tales" #126, published in 1964! This book is an important one in Ditko's and Lee's mythology of Doctor Strange. It features the first appearance of Doctor Strange's love-interest, Clea, Sorceress Supreme of the Dark Dimension. This comic also features the very first appearance of the Dark Dimension and...The Dread Dormammu!!

Here is my lovely copy of "Doctor Strange" vol 2, #1 published in 1974 with a stunning cover by Frank Brunner. This comic features the first appearance of Agamotto's Dimension, and Doctor Strange's enemy, Silver Dagger.

   I have been a fan of Doctor Strange for a very long time, and I was sure glad to see him make his first appearance on the big screen! Here are a few more Strange goodies from my collection:

I have two Doctor Strange action figures. The first is the Marvel Select version from 2015. The second is from Toy Biz's 2005 Galactus Series - I think this one looks more Ditko-esque. You can see them unboxed, and elaborated upon here:

(The 2005 version can be found at 2 mins and 53 secs into the video. The 2015 version can be found at 5 mins and 40 secs into the video.)

On to the fun facts!!

FUN FACT 1 - Marvel made a deal in 1968 that allowed them to print more titles, so Doctor Strange got his own title, continuing the numbering from "Strange Tales" which ceased production. However, "Strange Tales" would be revived in the 1970s, also starting with #169, featuring the first appearance of Jericho Drumm / Brother Voodoo / Doctor Voodoo, who would also become Earth's Sorcerer Supreme one day.

FUN FACT 2 - In Loki's first battle with Doctor Strange in ST #123, Loki proved more skilled at magic and nearly killed Strange. If Loki had not feared Thor's arrival, Strange would have been a dead man.

FUN FACT 3 - 2016's "Doctor Strange" movie is not Doctor Strange's first live-action appearance. In 1978, CBS produced a movie that was so bad, it was REALLY good. Doctor Strange was a psychiatrist, rather than a neurosurgeon. I have it in my movie collection:

FUN FACT 4 - The Latin term, "sanctum sanctorum" is a translation of the biblical "Holy of Holies" which points to the most sacred place in ancient Israel's Tabernacle. In Marvel Comics, it refers to Doctor Strange's dwelling located on a supernatural nexus, making it a place of super-concentrated spiritual energies. It is located at 177A Bleeker Street in NYC's Greenwich Village neighborhood. The address is based on an apartment where Roy Thomas and Gary Friedrich were once roommates.

FUN FACT 5 - In the film, "Doctor Strange," there are three sanctums: one in New York, one in London, and one in Hong Kong. Together they form a mystical shield to defend Earth against interdimensional threats...Which begs the question: Who is protecting everything south of The Equator, or doesn't it merit protecting? One would also think that a sanctum would be in places like India, Egypt or somewhere in the Middle East, where the most ancient civilizations sprang up, which is probably where the most ancient, powerful magic would be. Hong Kong? It looks like Marvel and DC are really doing their best to expand into Chinese markets.

CONFUSING FACT - "Doctor Strange" stars the lovely Rachel McAdams as Dr. Christine Palmer. In the comics, Christine Palmer IS NOT a doctor, she is a nurse. In fact, she was one of the three protagonists of the comic series, Night Nurse. Inversely, Claire Temple, portrayed by the sultry Rosario Dawson, IS a doctor in Marvel Comics, but she has been featured in "Marvel's Daredevil" and "Marvel's Luke Cage" as a nurse. Marvel weirdness.

FUN FACT 6: In "Doctor Strange" #169, Doctor Strange is seen smoking for the first and only time.

FUN FACT 7: Dan Adkins, the artist on "Doctor Strange" #169 apprenticed under the great, tragic Wally Wood. Adkins is primarily known as comics' greatest swipe-artist, which is a shame because he was actually a magnificent artist. Who taught Adkins to swipe? Why...Wally Wood did! Wally Wood once wrote a note to himself that read, "Never draw anything you can copy, never copy anything you can trace, never trace anything you can cut and paste-up."

FUN FACT 8: Steve Ditko sometimes created similar characters for different companies (and all of them were lots of fun). For Charlton, he helped create the mythology for Dr. Graves, a very interesting character similar in some ways to Doctor Strange. Dr. Graves was so awesome, that he soon got his own title that ran for over seventy issues and won the prestigious Alley Award in 1967 for Best Fantasy / Science-Fiction / Supernatural title. And yes, I  do have Dr. Graves' first appearance and the first issue of his series in my collection. Didja even have to ask? He also created The Question, which is very similar to his character, Mr. A, and He created The Destructor for ATLAS-SEABOARD, who in some ways is reminiscent of Spider-Man.

FUN FACT 9: Linda Carter, also known as Night Nurse, healer to the super-heroes, was once romantically linked to Doctor Strange.

   Doctor Strange is one of Ditko's most iconic, most-loved creations. It showcased his wild imagination, and trippy, psychedelic-inspired pencils. Ditko's creative genius will live on forever in mystical, magical, mythical adventures of Doctor Strange!!

 Thanks for reading!


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