Thursday, March 30, 2017


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Hello fellow Questers!!

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The Smurfs" TV Show, 1981 - 1989

"Smurfs: The Lost Village," April 2017

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Gemini TPB Review

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"Gemini" from Image Comics -

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

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

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

Happy trails.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Justice League of America #1 (REBIRTH) Review

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

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

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

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

  But wait, there's more.

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Marvel's Iron Fist Review

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   I just finished Iron Fist, and I have to say that while it wasn't as bad as the critics say (nothing usually is), it wasn't awfully good either. I have heard it compared to "Marvel's Jessica Jones," "Marvel's Daredevil," and "Marvel's Luke Cage," but this show is below the level of any of them. I'm not a professional movie reviewer, but I'll assay to explain what I am thinking here.

   "Marvel's Daredevil" has amazing fight scenes, interesting characters, and good storylines. There is no doubt that in the two seasons that Daredevil has aired, we have witnessed some of the best, most realistic and brutal fight scenes ever on the small screen - Charlie Cox was simply amazing. And when it comes to characters, D'Onfrio's Kingpin was definitely a standout in the first season - a hulking beast with a heart so tender that he'd do anything to protect it. This made him truly menacing. Jon Bernthal's Punisher in the second season was a revelation - you really felt for the guy and you got a real glimpse at why he was the unstoppable slice of criminal killing mayhem that he was.

  "Marvel's Jessica Jones" didn't have many great fight scenes, but it had many plot twists, a good storyline, and an amazing antagonist. Krysten Ritter was very believable as Jessica Jones and very vulnerable. She was a hero who had been violated, and because of this, she wasn't always very heroic. I often found myself disliking her, which means that she made me care. In the end, I really wanted her to win - she deserved that. David Tennant's Kilgrave was a proper bad guy, manipulative, conniving, attacking with well-planned schemes that used people that Jessica loved to hurt her. Kilgrave knew how to break Jessica Jones. This made for a palpable tension that ran nearly all the way through the show.

  "Marvel's Luke Cage" was unlike anything I have seen recently on TV. It's a throwback to the blaxploitation film genre of the 1970s, the genre from which the character was conceived. It was hip, fresh and energetic with a soundtrack that made your blood pump. Mike Coulter's Cage was really subdued, cool, with a simmering rage that is always ready to erupt kept under control by a guy who sought a way to use his mind more than his fists. He only wanted to fly under the radar, but life always had another curveball for him. His heart is too big, he just HAS to get involved. Why? Because Cage is a hero. A hero who just thinks of himself as a regular guy with crappy luck. Mahershala Ali, as usual, laid out a stunning performance as one of the antagonists, Cottonmouth, melding great sensitivity, and a twisted sense of honor into being a vicious bad guy. Alfre Woodard was captivating as Black Mariah, a wolf masquerading in sheep's clothing. Both Ali and Woodard have won Oscars for Best Supporting Actor - it is easy to see why in Marvel's Luke Cage. And the writers of "Marvel's Luke Cage" didn't back down from touching upon hot-button social justice issues either, which made it real art in my eyes.

  "Marvel's Iron Fist's" Finn Jones did his very best to bring a brokenness and an emotional depth to the story of Danny Rand. His effort is undeniable and should be applauded. However, the story, while competent, didn't offer many surprises other than the fact that Colleen Wing wasn't exactly who she said she was. Jones' Danny Rand didn't come off as broken, more like childish, and borderline psychotic, which is just weird, considering that his training should have centered him more. It seems like K'un Lun is a factory that cranks out nutcases instead of highly trained warriors that are in control of themselves. The best performance in the show, hands down, was by Tom Pelphrey as Ward Meachum, who garnered my dislike at the beginning of the series, and my sympathy by the series' end. When Pelphrey was on-screen, my family and I were riveted. Honorable mention goes to Jessica Henwick for providing us with a very strong, yet very damaged Colleen Wing. She has a face that can break your heart and her athleticism shined in her crisp, snappy fight scenes. Unfortunately, Jones was not able to channel the power nor skill expected from an actor playing one of the premier martial artists in the MU. Rand reminded us constantly that "he was the weapon," but his skills didn't back that claim. His movements seemed over-choreographed, hammy, timed, and ponderous with little passion - I expected a Ray Park-esque, or a Scott Adkins-esque performance, I was GREATLY disappointed that this was not the case. The end was anticlimactic and unfulfilling; I was ready for it to be over by the closing credits.

  What were Marvel and Netflix thinking? How could Daredevil's fight scenes eclipse those of Iron Fist, the Living Weapon? How could philosophical questions be handled in such clumsy, elementary ways? It's never okay to take a life? Really? But the killing is okay as long as the hero doesn't get his hands dirty? After watching "Marvel's Iron Fist," the only feeling I came away with for Iron Fist is that of all of Marvel's previous Netflix offerings, he is the LEAST heroic and most unstable. He hardly plans anything, his emotions come first with him, and he will risk anyone and anything to get what he wants - just ask the people of K'un Lun, wherever they are...If they still exist.

   So, is "Marvel's Iron Fist" terrible? By no means. The performances of Pelphrey and Henwick are bright spots, and the story itself was good enough to provide thirteen hours of escapism of which I do not regret partaking...Albeit, escapism with many groans and sighs as Danny Rand muddles his way to the conclusion of the first season of the show.

  But I haven't lost faith. Here's to hoping that the next time we see Danny Rand in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we'll get the Iron Fist we all want and deserve.

  What did you think of "Marvel's Iron Fist?" I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

  Happy trails.

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Savage #1 Review

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"Savage" #1 from Valiant -

    Years ago, an alcoholic champion footballer, Kevin Sauvage, whose star was slowly fading, hoped for a boost by making the switch to an American team. As he, his gorgeous wife, Ronnie, and their infant son, Kevin, Jr. (KJ), flew in their private jet towards America and a new life, tragedy struck. Encountering a weird but powerful turbulence, the plane went down in the sea, near a mysterious island. After days without seeing anyone, their hopes for rescue slowly began to disappear - as were their food and water rations. With Ronnie falling ill, Kevin struck out into the island's interior hoping to find help or even just clean drinking water. What he found was a lush and open land, untouched by the greedy hands of man, a land that time has seemingly forgotten. Kevin was awed by the landscape...Until he came upon a yacht filled with dead human bodies...And then he met the monstrous creature who killed and began to eat them.

   Writer, B. Clay Moore, spins an exciting, but familiar, tale of prehistoric mayhem in "Savage" #1. "Savage," seemingly inspired by novels like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Lost World," and Edgar Rice Burroughs' "The Land That Time Forgot," as well as TV shows, like Sid and Marty Krofft's "Land of the Lost," gives us the tale of a family on the rocks - a father who is becoming increasingly unsure of his career, and his wife's love for him, and a wife who has become distant, choosing to ignore her husband's addictions, and focus on the business side of their relationship to ensure their children's futures. I immediately felt for them as people and as a family unit; it's the type of thing you see every day in the real world, and it is always heartbreaking. Soon, the action rises as their plane goes down, and their love is put to the ultimate test - they fight for each other's lives like never before to protect each other and young KJ. I found myself rooting for them, hoping for the best, even though I had a feeling that the worst was coming. It obviously did, because in the opening pages of the book, we saw a teenage feral boy take on a dinosaur in a brutal fight for the dinosaur's eggs. Is that the now adolescent KJ? We have an idea, but we just don't know yet, as we leave the story with Kevin, Sr. facing a bloodthirsty dinosaur while his family waits for his return. This story left me wanting more and it left me with questions that I will enjoy finding the answers to by happily purchasing subsequent issues of "Savage." Sure, "Savage" seems a bit derivative, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't awesome. It was. Clayton Henry and Lewis LaRosa knocked the art out of the park on this book - it is detailed, expressive and purely gorgeous. No expense was spared in the production of this comic and it shows in the gripping story and the cinematic panels on every page. Valiant did this right - I wouldn't be surprised if "Savage" turned up on the big or small screen one day. I would love to see it happen.

RATING: 10 out of 10. I loved it so much, I even invested in two copies of the rare 1:100 covers:

Cool, right?

   Welp, that's all for today. Thanks for reading! Oh, and if you have read "Savage" please feel free to let me know how you felt about it in the comments. Happy trails!

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

TEX'S BACK-ISSUE QUEST Episode #50 (Iron Fist)

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Hello, again, fellow Questers!!

     I'm back one more time to blow your mind with some amazing comic book knowledge that you can't get in college! So, what's on the menu today, you ask? Well, we're going back to that amazing decade where Bruce Lee reigned supreme, to the decade of disco-dancing and bell-bottomed jeans...A decade where EVERYBODY WAS KUNG-FU FIGHTING: The 1970s!!

    We have to start in the 1960s for a little context, though. In 1966, the late, great Bruce Lee burst onto the American scene in "The Green Hornet." Lee played the part of Kato, millionaire Britt Reid's (The Green Hornet) manservant by day, and by night, the high-kicking, power-punching partner of the crime-fighter posing as a criminal, the Green Hornet! Although the series only lasted one season, Lee left an indelible mark on the minds and hearts of American audiences, helping spark the beginnings of the American martial arts craze that lasted through the 1970s and into the early 1980s. In 1971, Lee would become an international film star with the release of "The Big Boss,"opening the door for an ever-widening stream of Chinese action films out of Hong Kong. It wasn't long until the comics industry tried to get in on the burgeoning American obsession. DC hit first, years in advance of Marvel, with my personal favorite (and probably the greatest martial arts based comics character ever), Karate Kid, created by then teen prodigy, Jim Shooter, just fifteen years old at the time he started working for DC Comics. It wasn't until after Lee's fourth hit, "Enter The Dragon" seven years later, and his tragic death, that Marvel caught onto the craze and started cranking out martial arts-based heroes. After failing to acquire the rights to adapt the hit tv show, "Kung Fu," Marvel created Shang-Chi in 1973. In 1974, Iron Fist burst on the scene, and a year later, in 1975, Richard DragonBen Turner and Lady Shiva made their debuts in comics.

   Today, we'll be focusing on this guy:


    Iron Fist was created by comics greats, Roy Thomas, Gil Kane, and Bill Everett. Iron Fist is Daniel, "Danny" Rand, son of Wendell Rand, a wealthy American businessman. Wendell, himself, was the adopted son of the ruler of a mystical realm named, K'un-Lun. Forced to flee from K'un-Lun because of his jealous half-brother, Nu-An, Wendell settled in America, started a successful business with his friend Harold Meachum, and married a beautiful woman named Heather.  It was there that Danny was born. Years later, Wendell would seek to return to K'un-Lun. He headed to Tibet to find the mystical portal that opened every nine years, taking with him his family and his partner, Meachum. When Danny slipped and fell from an icy mountain pass, his parents fell along with him. While Danny and his mother landed safely on a protrusion, Wendell hung precariously below. Instead of saving Wendell, Meachum, driven by avarice, caused him to fall to his death. Seeing what happened, Heather attempted to navigate the frigid mountain alone with her son in tow. She soon died horribly protecting him from a pack of ravenous wolves. Not long after, Danny was found by some people from K'un-Lun and taken back to the otherworldly city. There, his uncle, now the ruler of K'un Lun, allowed Danny to be trained rigorously in the mystical martial arts of K'un-Lun. Danny would go on to defeat powerful adversaries, winning the right to challenge the mighty fire-breathing serpent, Shou-Lou the Undying, to win the power of The Iron Fist. Danny triumphed over the deadly dragon, bathing his hands in the power of Shou-Lou's molten heart, given him the power to channel supernatural energies into his hand, making him one of the deadliest men on the face of the Earth. Danny Rand would return to Earth to seek vengeance on Meachum, and there become a hero. In the years that follow, he would gain a friend closer than a brother: the super-powered hero, Luke Cage. Cage and Rand would form the legendary Heroes For Hire. Danny would also find love with the lovely Misty Knight, one-half of the deadly Daughters of the Dragon. Iron Fist would win acclaim as a hero, and one of the world's most formidable fighters, in several other teams, like The New Avengers, and The Defenders. 

   Iron Fist first appeared here:

Here are my three copies of Marvel Premiere #15, published by Marvel in 1974, featuring the very first appearance of Iron Fist!! On to the fun facts!!

NOT SO FUN FACT 1: The TV series, "Kung Fu," was probably based on a project that Bruce Lee pitched that was not accepted. The year following Lee's rejected pitch, "Kung Fu" aired having a very similar concept to that which he presented. Lee was never compensated, which didn't matter because he went on to become one of the biggest stars in the world.

FUN FACT 2: Iron Fist has a plethora of powers, including heightened awareness, control and augmentation of his chi, energy absorption, manipulation and generation, mind fusion, complete control of his nervous system and enhanced durability and reflexes (enhanced, but not superhuman).

FUN FACT 3: Danny Rand has mastered the martial arts of K'un-Lun and many Eath-based disciplines and their weaponry.

FUN FACT 4: Iron Fist was the first to defeat Sabretooth.

FUN FACT 5: Spider-Man's symbiote, Venom, was originally created by John Byrne for Iron Fist whose suit was damaged almost every issue in combat. A self-repairing suit would have been snazzy.

FUN FACT 6: The Heart of the Dragon scar on Iron Fist's chest appeared on him during his fight with Shou-Lou.

FUN FACT 7: Iron Fist has a half-sister, a master martial artist raised in K'un-Lun, named Miranda.

FUN FACT 8: Iron Fist once disguised himself as Daredevil to convince everyone that Matt Murdoch was not Daredevil.

FUN FACT 9: On March 17, 2017, Netflix will debut "Marvel's Iron Fist":

Iron Fist will be portrayed by Finn Jones, and co-starring will be Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing, the other half of the Daughters of the Dragon. 

Are you excited for the show? I sure am. Come back and let me know what you think about it after you binge-watch it (like I'm going to). LOL!

Happy trails!! Have a great week, pardners!

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Death Be Damned #1 Review

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"Death Be Damned" #1 from BOOM! Studios -

     They thought that they had killed her. They thought that they had killed them all. They were wrong. DEAD wrong. A family of homesteaders looking for a better life settles in the open plains of Wyoming in the late 1800s. It is a lawless place where the only protection one can hope for comes from the barrel of a rifle. The homesteaders learn this the hard way when a band of marauders enters their property take all they have and kill them all...Almost. The wife barely survives. She cries her tears, buries her family and sets her face like stone, riding out to find the men who killed her life, and murder them, each and every one. As if the Hand of Destiny is against her, she finds herself shot to death soon after, falling, falling into a dark Other Place - then she awakens! A Native American mystic has brought her back to life...For his own purposes. Will she take revenge on the men who murdered her family, or will she be held to the will of the weird mystic who needs her so desperately to complete a task that heals his soul? 

   Ben Acker, Ben Blacker and Andrew Miller spin us a paranormal Wild West revenge tale in "Death Be Damned" #1 from BOOM! Studios. It starts out rather slowly, and a little hokey with the dialogue, but it progressively gets more interesting - especially after the introduction of the supernatural elements. The protagonist, who is never named, is pretty straightforward; she is a woman that will do nearly anything to exact revenge on the men who slaughtered her husband and daughter. Typically, this trope is occupied by a male protagonist. The difference is highlighted very soon, as it is not very long until she is propositioned by a self-interested male whom she thinks has information on the men she seeks. Furthermore, she is handily killed by the first of the bad guys she finds; this seems to highlight the frailty of her sex even more. We have seen this story before with men as the protagonist, and, usually, they (A) recover and exact revenge on an unsuspecting group of baddies (B) are nursed back to help and learn skills from someone that helps them on their mission or (C) they die during the initial assault and are supernaturally healed or resurrected with something unearthly with them, or inside them, that helps them achieve their vengeance. Our woman with no name suffers defeat twice, and is powerless to do anything but die, or nearly die, both times. So we have an interesting twist on the "Man With No Name" trope - even if it does seem to be a bit condescending to women. I do find some of the religious philosophy and mysticism in the book to be enchanting. The Native American that brought the woman back is an undertaker. Ordinarily, this person lays people to rest, but this character is doing this best to find a way to bring them back using a hodge-podge of religions and religious rituals, and a new mystical language of his own devising. It's a rather romantic social commentary on how maybe the pieces of the keys to eternal life can be found in all religions, as long as humans are willing to be open enough to the thought, analyzation, and faith that will be necessary to put those keys together. I don't know if I believe that, but it is a comforting thought. Hannah Christenson's artwork is no frills, and sketchy, but it has something that adds a sad beauty to the story. I'd like to see where "Death Be Damned" is going. I love stories that get REALLY existential - and I'm a sucker for a weird western. 

RATING: 8 out of 10.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Infinite 7 #1 Review

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"Infinite 7" #1 from Action Lab -

     There's nothing special about teen gamer and layabout, Anthony. He's not a fighter, he's not a lover, he's not even that great of a gamer, just your normal, run-of-the-mill slacker. Well, today is Anthony's (un)lucky day. He just scored a date with the hottie at the coffee shop, and his parents are totally out of town so he's got the place all to himself. Oh, yeah...And he just killed a member of one of the world's premier elite teams who was searching for a sexy villain named Mavara. Now, he'll have to take the place of the guy he killed on this team of highly-trained, highly-dangerous, and potentially, highly unstable warriors as they try to stop Mavara from joining forces with an insane, fanatical terrorist sect called Chimera bent on bringing the world to its knees. Sooo....Yeah...It looks like Anthony's summer vacation just got busier - and DEADLIER. This summer's gonna hurt like a motherbleeper. 

    Dave Dwonch pens this ode to the action-flick, "Infinite 7" #1. Dwonch takes some of the most memorable action stars of the last fifty years and tosses them together to create an action fanboy's dream. Take a little Bruce Lee, a little Schwarzenegger, a little Kurt Russell, a little Denzel Washington (actually, take a lot, because Dwonch clones them all here), and you've got the Dream Team of shoot-em-up films. However, as flashy as the cast is, and as fast-paced as the story can be, I never really found much in the book that caught and held my attention. Anthony, the protagonist, was your archetypical good-natured teen slacker, but I never came to sympathize with him - this could have been due to the lack of any real exposition on the character, and the lack of any antagonistic forces that would help me find some feelings for Anthony at all. From the first page, Dwonch's focus is the action. In the end, this left me feeling that the story was a bit hollow, simply missing something rather important. Dwonch did, however, drum up lots of little funny moments that gave "Infinite 7" #1 a zany flavor that did make the book a bit of fun to read - Dwonch isn't taking this too seriously, which is a good thing too because this is pure camp. Arturo Mesa's simplistic, cartoony style works great for this story - he has a sense for the action and humor here that makes him the perfect guy for the job. All in all, "Infinite 7" #1 is an okay read - it has a lot of potential. However, it just didn't give me the "oomph" I was expecting for $3.99, nor was there much there to keep me around for another issue. 

RATING: 7 out of 10. 

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Darkness Visible #1 Review

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"Darkness Visible" #1 from IDW -

    Earth just isn't what it used to be. Eighty years ago, the Shaitan, demons, came to Earth to live amongst humankind. Some love them - they welcome them into their homes and even their bodies. Why? Because it keeps the host human young, strong and vibrant well beyond their years. And the powers that come along with letting a Shaitan ride your soul aren't bad either. On the other hand, some hate the demons, and this hate has been the cause of strife and violence ever since the Shaitan arrived. Detective Daniel Aston of London is a Cyclops, a special cop that walks the line between humans and demons, tasked with stopping any threat to peace, be the threat human or demon. After a brutal battle with a group of murderous demon raiders, Aston is on his way to the hospital for medical attention, accompanied by his twelve-year-old daughter, Maggie, and Simon Rhak, the powerful demon perp he took down. When the ambulance is attacked, Maggie is severely injured. What will Aston do to save her - to save them both? And how will he take down Nathan Ulescu, Rhak's boss and one of the most dangerous demons on the planet?

    Mike Carey and Arvind Ethan David are hitting all the right notes in this supernatural cop thriller, "Darkness Visible." Carey and David jump right into the thick of the story, giving all the needed exposition in one succinct paragraph on the inside cover of the book (which I wish had a bit larger print). We're prepared to enter the world that Carey and David built. Soon we're introduced to the protagonist, Detective Daniel Aston, and his daughter, Maggie. They are just great. He's a loving dad, she's a witty pre-teen, and they are a lot of fun together on the page - their closeness feels very real. He seems to be a great guy, a good cop, and an awesome dad - the life he shares with his daughter looks to be wonderful (although later we find that he is a widower), which gave me the feeling that soon everything would go sideways. And it did. Big-time. David and Carey walk us through a demonic raid with a dapper demon named Nathan Ulescu, who is as witty and charming as he is malevolent and bloodthirsty. I found myself chuckling at some pretty vicious stuff because Ulescu was just so polite with his evil ways. This is pretty much a slick heist story - good guy vs. bad guy; but, when Aston finds himself trapped in the back of an ambulance with his dying daughter and a captured demon, I find myself wondering how much Aston will be willing to blur the line to save his daughter's life. Who will Aston really reveal himself to be? Not only are the protagonists and antagonists very engaging, the story asks the reader this: Are the Shaitan inherently evil, or were they made that way at the harsh hands of humanity? Should they be feared? Are they all bad - or is it the influence of the souls of the people with which they bond (nature vs. nurture)? With the current immigration crisis the First World is facing currently, and all the contention that it is digging up in our hearts and minds, I am very interested to see where David and Cary take this story. Brendan Cahill's pencils are more than competent - his faces are distinct and expressive (and quite beautiful at times), and he does impressive action sequences. I also love the way that the panels are used in this book; there is so much content, but the pages never seem cluttered, nor overly busy. "Darkness Visible" has captured both my attention and my imagination. THUMBS UP!

RATING: 8.5 out of 10.

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Friday, March 3, 2017

"Forever War" #1 Review

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"The Forever War" #1 from Titan Comics -

    Earth is about to go to war - interstellar war. William Mandella was once a physics major, now a soldier conscripted to an elite force created to eliminate an alien threat: the Taurians. After discovering a form of FTL travel called "the collapsar jump" in the late 1990s, humans were able to begin to travel from star to star, allowing Earth colonies to begin to be spread past the boundaries of our solar system. We thought we were on the cusp of great things...Until exploration vessels were attacked and destroyed near Aldebaran more than 65 light years from Earth. In response, Earth comes together, forming the United Nations Exploratory Force (U.N.E.F.) to protect the colonists heading out into the unknown. The U.N.E.F. recruits highly intelligent, nearly superhumanly fit people to be prepared in deadly, merciless training and combat simulations to retaliate against the alien aggressors, and gather intel on them as well. Mandella is one of these troops. Still reeling from the loss of a big part of his team, Mandella now finds himself on an alien planet near a distant star about to come face to face with the unknown alien menace. Will he and his fellow troops survive? Or is this a war they cannot even hope to win?

   Joe Haldeman adapts his sci-fi masterpiece, "The Forever War" to comics for the very first time, and it is a really gripping, gritty read. Haldeman intricately reweaves a few parts of the last few decades of human history in order to get humans to the stars, and into their first alien contact, which, unfortunately, but not surprisingly, turns out to be hostile. In most of human history, "explorers" have often turned out to be conquerors, so it seems that the Taurians aren't about to make the same mistakes that the Taíno, the Aztecs, and the Inca did - they treat the humans as an incursion force, and they terminate the threat. This riles up the natives back on Earth, who demand blood for blood. Hardeman shows more than his scientific knowledge and brilliant, amply resourced imagination in this comic, but he shows an intimate understanding of human nature as well, as he spins this tale from Mandella's point-of-view, effectively communicating his protagonist's fear, courage, cynicism, and his eerie detachment from everything and everyone around him. One gets the sense that Mandella would be much more at home in a classroom than in the cold reaches of space, looking for a fight with an unknown enemy. The author, Joe Haldeman, a Physics and Astronomy major who was drafted into the U.S. Army with service in the Vietnam War, understands Mandella's feelings intimately, seemingly pouring his own experiences into his protagonist to make him feel real enough to come alive on the page. I guess being a war vet myself, Mandella really resonates with me in a special way that makes me want to journey with him - and it makes me invest in him emotionally. I really don't want Mandella to die. Marvano's pencils are haunting, conveying the cold, loneliness of space, equally as well as he does the weariness in eyes of his characters, and the action in his cinematic panels - all of which that make this comic impossible to put down. "The Forever War" is a sweeping sci-fi tale of bravery, fear, discovery and loss - a story interwoven with the threads of human fragility in the face of the great unknown. If you love sci-fi, REAL, CLASSIC sci-fi, you will dig "The Forever War."

RATING: 10 out of 10. Amazing.

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

"Beyond" #1 Review

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"Beyond" #1 from Graphic India

    Michael is a high-powered American visiting India. He's the stereotypical American capitalist, trying to cut any corners and slide under any laws he can, and he is a workaholic who spends much more time with his cell phone than he does with his beautiful wife and his angsty teen son. But his entire world - his entire universe - is about to be turned upside down. When his wife is seemingly abducted from a shop, he and his son will have to unite to embark on a perilous journey to find out what happened to the woman they both love most in all the world. After someone leaves a mysterious, mystical comic book for his son to find, a comic that seems to tell a story that mirrors their own, Michael has a dream about an enigmatic woman who leads him to a hidden door, behind which, somewhere, his wife awaits his help. Michael knows he must find the otherworldly door, enter, and face all the dangers that lie beyond if he ever hopes to see his wife again. But...Can he survive the power of what lies beyond the door?

    Prolific New Age author, Deepak Chopra, and his partner-in-scribe (get it?), Ron Marz, pen this mystery/supernatural/action mash-up, "Beyond." I do enjoy some of Chopra's works, including his comics - he has written quite a few with the aid of other writers that have been quite fresh and fascinating, all under two companies: Virgin Comics, Chopra's own company that he co-founded with his son, Gotham Chopra, and Sharad Devarajan, and now he publishes under Devarajan's and his son's latest company, Graphic India. I enjoy Graphic India's comics because, usually, they present stories and mythologies very different than what I am used to, which I find to be pretty cool. In "Beyond," it seems that Chopra has gone for a transcendental take on the hit film series, "Taken," only it is his wife that goes missing, and the abductors are more than likely of the supernatural variety. Well, does Michael have a "particular set of skills?" Sadly, I don't think so, other than being a bit of a snob, a bit of a jerk, and just a tiny bit crooked; however, since this is a Deepak Chopra story, I'm betting he is about to embark on a journey that will be quite a spiritual awakening, one that will expand Michael's consciousness in ways he never imagined. One clue is the comic book that Michael's son finds called "The Rishi." The Rishis were divine humans (in early Hindu mythology) considered to be seers. Maybe that is what Michael is on his way to becoming. It's really all quite interesting - the story itself is the star of the show. The protagonist and other characters aren't really quite that compelling on their own, but the story is written with such style and mystery that I'd love to see where it is going. Edison George's art is quite lovely and detailed, and it pops because of Parasuraman A.'s saturated and weirdly reflective colors.

  Now on to a HUGE negative: This book is a reprint (published originally in 2008), and it should have been advertised as such. It looks like Graphic India is republishing some of its old Virgin Comics stuff, and that is fine, as long as it is clearly stated in the solicitations that it is in effect a reprinting. I feel a bit cheated...Duped, really - $3.99 is steep for a reprint of a comic that is 9 years old.

  Reprint or not, this is an interesting book; however, I think I'll find the original copies much cheaper on ebay.

RATING: 7.5 out of 10.

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