Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Coldest City GN Review

The Coldest City, a graphic novel from ONI Press -

     The year is 1989, and the world is holding its breath. After long decades of covert aggression, the Cold War is nearing its end. However, for the players in the never-ending spy game, it's business as usual...In fact, the stakes have just been raised astronomically. A British spook has been murdered, and gone along with him is a document so fearful that it not only threatens the lives of every spy in Berlin, but the security of every government running those spies there on both sides of the Berlin Wall. Enter Lorraine Broughton, an accomplished spy, but one with no experience with how the spy game works in Berlin. MI6 sends her to Berlin, deep cover, to retrieve the missing document before the CIA, DGSE, or the KGB get their hands on it and use it for their own covert agendas. Lorraine is an excellent spy, but in Berlin, she's a fish out of water. She's forced to work with an old-guard agent that MI6 is unsure of, while outsmarting enemy agents, creating allies, and avoiding death at every turn. Can Lorraine secure the document, or will she wind up as just another spook dead in the gutters of that cold, cold city?

     From the creative mind of Antony Johnson comes this nail-biting espionage thriller, The Coldest City. In the illustrious company of great novels like, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, The Coldest City takes us back to those dark days when Democracy and Communism vied for world power, fighting each other through proxy wars, and through the daring and ingenuity of covert operatives, men and women that we call spies. Johnston gives us a pretty thrilling protagonist, Lorraine Broughton, a woman in a clandestine world run by powerful, dangerous men. Lorraine is brilliant, calculating and bold - she has to be if she expects to complete the mission and get out alive. Besides Lorraine Broughton, Johnston fills this story with so many interesting characters that are all a bit shady - just like the protagonist, the reader is never quite sure who to trust. Ulterior motives and questionable allegiances abound in this twisty, turny Cold War spy story from the very beginning to the gut-punch of an ending. In The Coldest City, Antony Johnston has made sure to keep the reader on their toes because absolutely nothing is exactly as it seems. This creates a palpable atmosphere of danger and doubt that had me totally absorbed from start to finish. Sam Hart absolutely rocked the art; his panel arrangements give the book a cinematic feel, and his pencils are sketchy and energetic yet very expressive. Done all in black and white, Hart's obscured, and sometimes unfinished faces along with his expert use of shadows definitely make this book seem like a throwback to those classic spy films I used to watch with my grandparents as a kid. If you love spy thrillers, The Coldest City is a real page-turner that you won't want to put down.

RATING: 10 out of 10.

FUN FACT 1 - On July 28, 2017, Charlize Theron and James McEvoy will star in Atomic Blonde, David Leitch's film based on Johnston's and Hart's graphic novel, The Coldest City. Here is the trailer:

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Eternal Empire #1 Review

"Eternal Empire" #1 from Image Comics -

    In a harsh, unforgiving world, war has raged for over one hundred and forty years. The Eternal Empress, powerful spawn of a mystical beast and a woman, has trodden nearly all her enemies underfoot in her quest to unify the planet under her totalitarian rule. Only one kingdom remains to resist the Empress' domination. It seems all power is just within the Empress' reach...But within the vanquished Kingdom of Essia, a slave-girl, devotee of an ancient religion, has begun to have visions, seemingly sent from her gods, The Sacred Suns, the three fiery stars that that rule the planet by day. It seems the Suns are speaking with her, drawing her out of captivity, down a road she doesn't understand - one that just might end her life. Can this one young woman be the hope of an entire world or is she just another hopeful cultist destined for a cold death on the lonely, frozen plains of Essia?

    Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna team up again to bring us this sci-fi/fantasy story, "Eternal Empire." Vaughn and Luna work great together usually; their comic book series, "Alex + Ada" was really good and received critical acclaim. They are also pretty great separately; The Luna Brothers brought us the AMAZING comic series, "The Sword" (this should be a movie NOW!), and Vaughn knocked it out of the park with DC Comics' "Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love." However, I have to confess that I am a bit disappointed with "Eternal Empire." While the story itself seems to offer an adventure that may EVENTUALLY turn out to be quite interesting, the characters didn't offer enough of themselves to really hook me into to this journey. The unnamed protagonist, an albino slave-girl called only "snow hair," is very bland, and doesn't do much but muse on her plight, and look very put-upon in almost every situation. When she finally decides to act on her vision, the story begins to pick up, but by then, the book is nearly over. Also, the backstory is very sparse, as is the story itself. We get an airy peek at the antagonist's origin (Eternal Empress), but then we are hurled over 140 years into the future and start traveling with a nondescript slave-girl. It's jarring. The story just feels a bit bland and incomplete. When it comes to the artwork, Jonathan Luna didn't really pull out any stops here - the art is sometimes overly simple, and much of the time, repetitive panels are frustrating. For example, the slave-girl (snow hair) carries the same open-mouthed expression through much of the book.  While this story may become interesting in the future, issue #1 just did not give me much to work with, it did not get me to invest emotionally in the character, nor in the story, so much so that I am not really interested in going any further on this journey. Vaughn and J. Luna are the bee's knees, but they seriously missed me on this one. Bummer.

RATING: 5 out of 10.

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Amazing Age #1 Review

"Amazing Age" #1 from Alterna Comics -

    Sam Charleston was a kid who loved comics. He spent his days enjoying his family, school and spending time with his best friends, Violet and Mike. Sam loved comics so much he began to draw them, making elaborate adventures, all involving J.E.T. (The Justice Enforcement Team), a trio of superheroes based on Sam, Violet, and Mike. But one day, it all changed. When Sam's father died tragically, Sam's world was torn apart. Five years later, Sam has become a rebel, and he is estranged from his childhood friends; but through the anger and pain, Sam's childhood dreams are calling out to him once more. When Sam, Violet, and Mike all find a copy of "Amazing Age," the comic Sam created as a young boy, they end up whisked away into a world of adventure, superheroes, and danger far above anything they could ever have dreamed.

   Matthew D. Smith takes us back to those halcyon days when the good guys were good, the bad guys were bad, and comic books were for everyone to enjoy. "Amazing Age" is definitely a throwback to simpler times when comics were just good, clean, fun - you won't find political drama, over accentuated, scantily-clad super folks, or sexual situations - "Amazing Age" is just an old-fashioned childhood adventure, which will probably develop into a cool bildungsroman by the time it is over. Sam, the protagonist, is the type of kid most of us were (if you're over forty): he passes his time outside after school, hanging with his friends, and roaming the neighborhood totally unsupervised. It's easy to relate to him and feel for him when tragedy strikes his life. We've all either known that kid, or BEEN that kid, whose life was changed forever, whose innocence was lost when adulthood came knocking too soon and began to block the sunlight that flowed freely into the windows of our young soul. The writer, Matt Smith, is indeed writing an all ages adventure comic, but I really get the sense that he's also working towards some sort of personal catharsis in this tale. And that is VERY interesting indeed. While "Amazing Age" is short on flash, it's got heart - it reminds me just a bit of one of my childhood favorites, "The Neverending Story," where a reader is whisked away to a fantasy world for an amazing adventure; however, in this case, the world where Sam and his friends find themselves is one of Sam's own creation. Jeremy Massie is the artist here, and he chose a simple, cartoony art style to tell this story, which turned out to be a good decision. It looks like Alterna Comics wants to revive the use of the classic newsprint paper...While it's not as pretty as the glossy pages or today's comics, "Amazing Age" #1 only cost $1.50! Imagine buying comics on newprint packed with great stories at low prices. Imagine buying 10, 15 or 20 titles a month to enjoy without breaking the bank. I can get behind that!

   "Amazing Age" is a fun comic, but it won't be for everyone. Some are going to need glossy pages. Some will need a politically charged, socially relevant, intellectually stimulating, complex story to enjoy themselves. In truth, I like those things as well...But sometimes, it is okay to just kick back, put your feet up, and go soaring on a childlike flight of fancy, and "Amazing Age" is Matt D. Smith's way of helping us do that all for the low-low price of $1.50. VERY cool.

RATING: 8 out of 10 for good, clean, fantasy fun.

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Bug! The Adventures of Forager #1 Review

"Bug! The Adventures of the Forager" #1 from DC Comics' Young Animal imprint

    Forager was one of the Bugs of New Genesis, a sub-species that lived, literally and figuratively, below the New Gods. However, the heroic Forager eventually earned the respect of The New Gods and Earth's heroes when he selflessly gave his life to save Earth from the Anti-Life Equation. Imagine his surprise when he awakes and emerges from a cocoon in a wacky world of glaring little girls and talking teddy bears. Desperate to discover where he is, he soon encounters the strange Sandman, a colorful character that claims to have the task of ensuring that nightmares never enter the real world. Soon they are hesitantly thrust into forming a team to stop the nightmarish villain, General Electric, who dreams of using, er...Dreams to conquer the world. Is Forager awake or dreaming, alive or dead, none of the above, or all of the above?

   Lee and Mike Allred take on this very weird tale starring two of Jack Kirby's Bronze Age creations, Forager and Sandman! And when I say this story is weird, that is exactly what I mean. It is a twisty, turn-y tale filled with (possible) figments of someone's imagination in a bizarre place where the regular laws of physics do not apply. I got the sense that Forager and Sandman weren't the real story... But more like the protagonists that just happen to be necessary for the weirdness to move forward. In other words, the story's the star, the stars aren't the story. The reader never really gets a foothold in the place; it's almost as if it's a drama told from the perception of a silent, unreliable narrator. It's impossible to know what's real, or whose perception is trustworthy. Is Forager alive, or dead? Is this all born of his imagination, the last spark of existence a dying hero, or is Forager himself just a character playing a role in someone else's (something else's) dream? Lee and Allred ask some REALLY philosophical questions in this book, questions all based in a haunting uncertainty in the nature of reality and existence. At first glance, this book seems to be all weirdness in a whacked-out world with two second-string Bronze Age heroes, but if you dig a little deeper, the Allreds are feeling about for some answers to some VERY serious questions. Now THAT is art. Speaking of art, The Allreds make this book absolutely pop with seemingly simplistic, gorgeous, colorful art that works perfect for the book, and hides the complexity of its creation. Simply put, the Allreds make it look easy. Now, this book isn't going to be for everyone. The story seems to meander, the heroes may not be very well-known by younger fans, and they aren't earthshakingly interesting at this point, but the story sure is. I am a sucker for journeys that ask questions about the nature of existence, and reality. Rock on Allreds, do rock on.

RATING: 9 out of 10.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

TEX'S Variants, Autographs and Oddities Episode 3 (Thief of Thieves Variants)


    I hope that you are having a terrific Tuesday! Mine is fine as a delicious clementine! I will be back soon with more comics reviews that you won't get watching the nightly news, but I am loving this particular showcase, so I thought that I'd lay another cool variant on you in 3 -2 - 1...

    Here are my two, count 'em, TWO copies of Robert Kirkman's, and Nick Spencer's "Thief of Thieves" #1!! But these aren't just the regular editions, no siree, these here are two of the Image Expo Variant Editions sold only to those who attended the 2012 Image Expo. THESE ARE LIMITED TO ONLY 1,000 COPIES...AND BOTH OF MINE ARE SIGNED BY THE MAN HIMSELF: ROBERT KIRKMAN!!

    "Thief of Thieves" tells the story of Conrad Paulson, alias Redmond, the greatest thief alive at the present time. Paulson decides to retire to put his family back together, but instead, he begins another life of crime...Stealing from other criminals.

   Here's a little secret about ol' TEX: I don't like to pay full price for nothing - especially when it comes to key issues and variants that are Modern Comics (or Post-Moderns, or whatever Age we're saying we're in now). I have engineered many a deal when it comes to my comics collection, and these were no different. I copped these from a highly respected seller for only $25 each.

   Damn it feels good 2 B a gangsta. :-)

   These have cooled down quite a bit in the last few years, but I'm a patient man. Kirkman announced that a series was in development based on "Thief of Thieves" back in 2012. He said that it was to be aired on AMC, just like Kirkman's other hit show which evolved from the hit comic series of the same name: "The Walking Dead." Some have speculated that it won't happen, but I think it will. It took five years for "The Walking Dead" to make it to TV, and after the success of that show, you had better believe that Kirkman DEFINITELY has the ears of the executives at AMC. Just last year, Kirkman announced that the show was still in development - I can't wait to see how this show turns out.

  That's all for today my fellow Questers!! Happy Trails!

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Malika: Warrior Queen

"Malika: Warrior Queen" #1 from YOUNEEK Studios -

     Since she was a youth, Malika has been enthralled by the martial arts, strategy, and the way of the warrior. Her mother, Queen of The Kingdom of Azzaz, impressed by her spirit, intelligence and skill, gave her to be trained under the watchful eye of one of Azzaz's mightiest generals, Abdul-Nasser. Now an adult, the reigning Queen Malika must put her bravery, skill, and mind to the test against a rebellion that threatens to tear her kingdom apart. It is a rebellion founded in her own family blood - it began in murder, and it just may end with the fall of an empire. In order to save The Kingdom of Azzaz, Queen Malika will face every danger to unite the people, and in the process, she just might become the greatest ruler and warrior that Azzaz has ever seen; and she will need to be all this and more. The rebellion is not the only threat; an enemy army approaches from a far-away land with malevolent intentions and an ancient magic sword...

     Roye Okupe creates and writes this sweeping epic of a ruler who must risk everything to save her murdered father's kingdom. Okupe has put on a clinic in world-building; his characters come alive in the reader's mind as he creates a fantasy world to weave his violent tale of jealousy, treachery, violence, and sexism with a protagonist that is honestly quite dazzling. I love tales like this in which the world seems familiar, or has shades of real recognizable history woven into a completely novel narrative just waiting to unfold. As fascinating as Okupe's world is, the protagonist, Queen Malika, really makes the story great; she is fearless, strong, and intelligent with a strong moral compass, and a burning desire to carry on her father's legacy by keeping The Kingdom of Azzaz safe and keeping her people free. I would absolutely love to journey with Queen Malika, share her adventures, and explore her world. The artist, Chima Kalu, is a master of drawing action, from one-on-one combat to epic military battles. It looks like YOUNEEK Studios might be a new publisher with a burgeoning "YOUNIVERSE" that has a lot to offer - new tales, new worlds, new heroes, new villains - Hey, I can dig that. And I am digging "Malika: Warrior Queen."

RATING: 10 out of 10.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Victor LaValles's Destroyer #1 Review

Victor LaValle's "Destroyer" #1 from BOOM! Studios -

     Over two-hundred years ago, Doctor Victor Frankenstein created a life he could not control, which became a monster that was ultimately his undoing. The monster fled from humanity, choosing the silence of Antarctica, and the company of the beasts over that of men. When a whaling ship kills a friendly whale and it's calf, and disturbs The Monster's repose, he retaliates and through the wonders of modern technology discovers that in Montana, a modern-day Victor Frankenstein is again preparing to pierce the veil between life and death. This he cannot abide...

    In Missoula Montana, a brilliant African-American scientist and alchemist, Dr. Josephine Baker, is on the cusp of fulfilling a dream. Several years ago, her world was torn asunder when a fearful police officer mistakenly shot and killed her twelve-year-old son. He was a warm, sweet boy; she was unable to let him go. She seemingly downloading his consciousness into a computer system that interacts with nearly every part of her life. However, that is not enough. Not nearly enough. Her dream, her most powerful desire, is far more chilling than anyone could ever believe...She would have her son back, alive and well...And she would have her vengeance. 

   From the very first page, Victor LaValle's story held me entranced. I have always loved Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, and there have not been many versions of it that I have not enjoyed. This book is no exception. In it, we see the Frankenstein's Monster drawn back into the world of men by their own barbarism, and drawn even further by the discovery of a "modern-day Frankenstein." The creature reacts with rage, but does The Monster desire to stop, kill, or perhaps even guide this new Prometheus? The Monster keeps the reader off balance: he seemingly possesses the ability to reason, but demonstrates none of the emotional connections that one assumes comes with the power of reason (at least toward humans). Is his motivation justice, or animalistic vengeance? And Dr. Josephine Baker (named for  the famous, stunning songstress and civil rights activist, Josephine Baker), is utterly captivating. Beautifully rendered by Dietrich Smith, she is highly intelligent, driven, wily, daring, matter-of-fact...And completely damaged. She is a beautifully tragic character that shines - the pace of the book picks up considerably when the story focuses on her. Her pain is very real, and very socially relevant in the time in which we live; I cannot wait to see how LaValle handles such a tender subject. But who is the protagonist? The Monster or Dr. Baker? Which is the antagonist? Is there really either in this story? What makes a monster? LaValle has filled "The Destroyer" with great characters, and lots of unanswered questions which is a great recipe for keeping me around until the bitter end...And it looks like the end will be just that, bitter. Dietrich Smith's artwork is perfect for this book. He draws action very well, but where he excels is in the crafting of expressive eyes and faces. He has a wide range -  from beautiful scenery, to lovely faces, to wild explosions, to gory action, to futuristic sci-fi scenes; Smith can do it all, and do it all well. Watch out for Victor LaValle's "Destroyer" - I think we just might be seeing the beginnings of a sleeper hit.

RATING: 10 out of 10. I need this book on my pull list, and I need it NOW.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

TEX'S Variants, Autographs and Oddities Episode 2

Hey-up, fellow QUESTERS!!

    I hope that you had a spiffy day - and I hope tomorrow is even better! Mine was pretty chill - I kicked it with the wife and daughter, watching TV and chatting until the sun went down. Priceless.

    Bu-u-u-u-u-u-t...Since my wife's occupied with her favorite reality TV show, I figured I'd take the time to beat a speedy retreat and get a quick article done for my fellow QUESTER chosen ones! So let's rock:

    It's the 2011 novel, "The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor," written by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga. This book relates the story of Philip Blake, his brother Brian, Philip's young daughter, Penny, and their two friends, Bobby and Nick, as they all try to stay alive in the zombie apocalypse. It is a really good story of love, loss, pain, and insanity...And how these things lead to the creation of The Governor, leader of Woodbury, one of the most frightening antagonists Rick Grimes and his group have ever faced. 

   So what's special about this book you ask? Well...

   This is not the regular hardcover, slipcase edition; this is the Limited Edition! It signed by Robert Kirkman himself and it is numbered because only 500 of these were ever produced! I am sure glad to have one of these in my collection - and even more happy that I ordered it in advance and got a special discount: I only paid $75. And yep, it's still sealed (I bought a cheap paperback to enjoy the story). 


FUN FACT 1 - This book reveals the origin for The Governor in the comic book series whose identity and origin is different from the Governor in the TV series. In the novel (which ties directly to the comic book series), The Governor is revealed to be Brian Blake, the brother of the deceased Philip Blake who was killed by his friend Nick. Philip had slowly gone mad after his daughter's (Penny's) death, and Nick had no choice but to end him; however, Nick was subsequently ended by Brian who took his brother's identity. In the TV series, The Governor is actually a still-living, still-deranged Philip Blake. 

FUN FACT 2 - In both the comic book series and the TV show, Philip Blake kept his daughter around after she died and became a zombie. 

FUN FACT 3 - This is Robert Kirkman's first novel. 

Happy trails, that's all for today, QUESTERS!! Night, night, sleep tight...Don't let them zombies bite!

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

TEX'S Variants, Autographs, and Oddities Episode 1

Hello, fellow Questers!!

    It's time for a change of pace as I hit ya'll with autographed comics, variants, and other oddities right from TEX'S very own long boxes! I've been meaning to start this up for quite a spell, but I've just never stirred up the gumption to see to it! But, consider my gumption stirred amigos - so let's skin this here smoke-wagon and see what happens!!

It's "The Plaid Avenger" #1 from NX Comics!

   You're thinking, "TEX...For reals?" Right? But heck yeah, I'm for reals! For years, Professor John Boyer, Department Chair of Geography at Virginia Tech, has been kicking butt in the classroom and finding new ways to get American students to be more aware of and active in all things global. From politics to pollution, John uses his teaching super-powers to get his students in the global game. Already using his alter-ego, The Plaid Avenger, in a series of nuanced textbooks that he and his "Plaid Team" publish, it was only logical that he make the leap to comics, so we could all benefit from his highly researched take on important international issues in our rapidly changing, very complex world. 

   "The Plaid Avenger" #1 was published by NX Comics back in 2008. It is a fun, cartoony, "edutainment" comic. In this issue, our hero, The Plaid Avenger, a well-mannered college professor by day, and globe-trotting superhero all the rest of the time, heads WAY up north to investigate the retreating permanent ice-cap, and what it means for the planet. Along the way, he tangles with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as our hero highlights a simmering territory dispute. 

   Fun and educational? That is TEX-TASTIC!!

  See ya later, Plaid Avenger! And HAPPY TRAILS TO MY FELLOW QUESTERS!!

PS: I just realized that I kinda started this series quite a while ago when I published an article on one of the RAREST ARTICLES in my collection. Click the link for a refresher! Adios!

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Saucer State #1 Review

"Saucer State" #1 from IDW -

      Arcadia Alvarado is the ex-Governor of New Mexico and the newly-elected President of the United States. But President Alvarado's got no time for celebration, she's got a divided country to run...And she's got a terrible, mysterious secret that she's spent years trying to quietly unravel. You see, a few years ago, President Alvarado and her ex-husband, Michael, were abducted and abused by aliens.  President Alvarado has assembled a small group of friends to help her solve her mystery, including her Chief of Staff, and one Professor Joshua Kidd - an academic and investigator of UFO phenomenon. Battling the horrifying remnants left in her memories of what the aliens did to her, navigating the constant political jockeying by friend and foe, guarding a secret that could destroy her political career, and trying to covertly get to the bottom of an otherworldly conspiracy that just might involve human agents, President Alvarado is fighting tirelessly and not backing down...But, it seems that neither are the aliens. President Alvarado's just gotten the report...NASA's seemingly just made first contact with an approaching extra-terrestrial craft!

     Finally! Writer, Paul Cornell and artist, Ryan Kelly, are back with the sequel to the Hugo Award-nominated sci-fi thriller, "Saucer Country." "Saucer State" doesn't miss a beat, giving us a succinct, one-page prose summary of the events that took place in "Saucer Country" and then Cornell tosses us right into the story of the hard-charging President Alvarado her curious cabal of alien investigators. "Saucer State" is what you would get if two much-beloved TV shows, "The X-Files" and "The West Wing," were to pair up and have a baby. It's the perfect mix of political intrigue, weird science-fiction, and mystery, all populated by three-dimensional characters with distinct personalities and motivations that made this issue a real page-turner. Kelly's pencils are great - he's got an eye for creating distinctive characters whose physical appearances really match perfectly with their personalities (at least in my mind). I got no one confused, quickly learned (or remembered) the names of all characters, and began the process of deciding who I liked, didn't like, or didn't trust. In other words, Cornell's and Kelly's "Saucer State" removed all barriers to the readers being able to immerse themselves in the story which, for me, made for the beginnings of an engrossing sci-fi mystery and a journey with these characters that I'd love to see through to the end. I'm so on board for "Saucer State!"

RATING: 10 out of 10.

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Normals #1 Review

"The Normals" #1 from Aftershock - 

     As of a few hours ago, Jack Normal considered himself a very lucky guy. Although he was no great shakes, he'd managed to nail down a great job, score himself a gorgeous wife, and father two wonderful, well-adjusted kids. Jack's only worry was that his son, Aiden, wasn't growing like Jack felt he should - other than that, life was pretty sweet. But that was earlier. Now, Jack is scrambling to understand why his son had an electrical wire hanging out of the back of his head after a fall, and why no one in the small eastern town he and his wife grew up in remembers them. Their parents, gone. Their childhood homes, owned by strangers. Their friends and neighbors, either long gone or without any memory of Jack and Mary Normal. Jack took his family home seeking sanctuary and solace, but what he finds is a mystery so frightening that it threatens to unravel the very threads of his family's existence. The Normal family is about to discover that they are everything but...Normal. 

   Adam Glass pens this weird sci-fi mystery, "The Normals" #1. Glass starts is out very right: great characterizations, lots of exposition in the captions while the story moves forward in the panels, a great set-up with the Normals' yuppified, sunshine-filled life, and then an unexpected gut-punch as everything enters an uneasy world steeped in the fantastic. This book is a bit like a "Brady Bunch" / "Blade Runner" mash-up and has the potential to develop into a very interesting sci-fi / mystery / suspense thriller. The story is an intriguing concept; however, I couldn't help but notice that in some ways the story felt very pedestrian and generic - that is NOT to say that it was not enjoyable - it has some pretty tense and gripping moments, but it is light on action, and the characters are just quite bland. Then again, maybe that is the whole idea of "The Normals" - they don't stand out, they look like us, talk like us, seem like us, but just below the surface is something wholly unimaginable. A very cool concept. Dennis Calero's pencils are expressive (if a bit stiff at times), yet, often they are overpowered by Adriano Augusto's super-rich colors. With that said, all in all, "The Normals" #1 is a solid first issue to a possibly great series that seems made to be translated to a T.V. show. I'll stick around for issue #2 to see if Glass picks up the pace. 

RATING: 7.5 out of 10.

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Monday, June 5, 2017

U.S. Avengers #1 Review

"U.S. Avengers" #1 from Marvel Comics -

    Roberto Da Costa, AKA Sunspot, is many things - mutant, hero, philanthropist - but most of all, he is a patriot. He used his wealth to turn A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) into a mighty science-based force for good, and now he is about to go even further: as the shadow of the threat of The Secret Empire soars toward the Californian coast, Da Costa calls up his newest team of fellow patriots to stand against the looming threat. Squirrel Girl, Cannonball, Enigma, and the all-new Iron Patriot and Red Hulk are joining forces under Da Costa (Codename: Citizen V) to meet the Secret Empire's helicarrier head-on before it reaches American shores. Will Roberto's rag-tag bunch of true believers be enough to stop the impending doom barreling down on California at breakneck speed, or will the American Dream become a nightmare? And who is the new Captain America getting all up in Da Costa's Kool-Aid? The U.S. Avengers are...ASSEMBLED!

    Al Ewing pens this IMMENSELY fun, action-packed first issue of "U.S. Avengers!" Ewing's writing is on-point. His dialogue is fun, and often times quite inspiringly patriotic without seeming cheesy, nor jingoistic. With Ewing, Roberto Da Costa takes a Captain-America-like turn of character, and it is awesome. If this weren't enough, Ewing managed to masterfully squeeze in several characters' backstories while moving the actual main story forward at a perfect pace. And these U.S. Avengers are diverse - different backgrounds, different nations of origin - all coming together to fight for America. Diverse people working together is part of what makes America great, and it definitely is part of what makes the U.S. Avengers magnificent.

   And don't let ANYONE sell you snake-oil, and tell you differently.

    "U.S. Avengers" #1 is fast-paced, slick and populated by likable characters with whom I really want to journey - I mean, I even kinda liked Squirrel Girl (bleargh - I think I threw up in my mouth a little bit). These Avengers talk like superheroes used to, and I love it. Add in Paco Medina's superb pencils and slick paneling choices with Jesus Aburtov's well-done colors, and you've got a comic that looks and reads wonderfully. "U.S. Avengers" #1 is just hella fun.

RATING: 10 out of 10. Marvel. You REALLY got this one right.

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Noble #1 Review

"Noble" #1 from Catalyst Prime

      Astronaut, David Powell, is dead. The world watched him, and his team of heroic space cowboys, die, burn up in the Earth's atmosphere, over a year ago. His adoring wife, his young son, everyone beheld in horror as David and his brave astronauts made the ultimate sacrifice to save the world from destruction by a killer asteroid hurtling through space on a collision course with our little blue marble. The tears have fallen, goodbyes said, and then a year later...David returned. No one knows why and no one knows how. Not even David; his memory is gone. He wants to be left alone, but he cannot be. He has returned with powers that make him a living weapon. He is being hunted by a covert group that has at its disposal soldiers who have powers as well. David must run, he must fight, he must live to find out who wants him so badly and why. The past is coming for the man believed to be the resurrected hero, David Powell. It will not be denied, and it will have him once more...By ANY means necessary. 

    Freshman comics company, Catalyst Prime, is off to an amazing start with the science-fiction/fantasy actioner, "Noble" #1! Brandon Thomas begins building an impressive universe for Catalyst Prime in this first issue from the company. "Noble" #1 contains a captivating story that moves at a near-breakneck pace for nearly the entirety of the comic. The protagonist, David Powell, is a gentle, amnesiac that just wants to be left alone, but the past keeps coming for him. That makes him a very attractive character fighting to remain free in an impossible vertical struggle. Even though "Noble" is pretty great, there are very few characters to latch onto emotionally, so far. However, right now, David, and his wife, Astrid, more than make up for the lack of other memorable characters. Roger Robinson's artwork is simply awesome - expressive, cinematic and dynamic - this book is an eye-popper. If "Noble" #1 is an indicator of the quality of this new Catalyst Prime Universe, sign me up. This is going to be a fun thrill-ride. 

RATING: 9 out of 10. 

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America #1 Review

"America" #1 from Marvel Comics -

      Miss America, AKA, America Chavez, is a super-strong super-chica that can punch star-shaped holes in dimensions. She's been a member of several super-teams, including the mightiest team in the M.U., The Ultimates. However, with so many changes taking place in her life, America decides that the time has come to move on, to get back to her life, to pay more attention to her girlfriend, and to get herself a proper education. America's going to college...But not just ANY college! She's going to Sotomayor University, a forward-thinking, intergalactically-oriented, school for people who want to change the world. She meets up with her buddy, the ex-mutant genius formally known as Prodigy, in her first class - so despite a rough start, America's feeling pretty good about the situation. That is until her demanding teacher, Professor Douglas, gives out the insane first assignment that makes America feel way out of her depth. Prodigy and America decide to tag-team the problem using one of Prodigy's prototype inventions, but everything spins out of control and America ends up hurtling through time and the multiverse all cattywampus! Bienvenida a la universidad, America. School's in!

    Gabby Rivera writes "America" #1, a fun, light, and airy take on one of Marvel's best creations in the past ten years. Rivera fills issue #1 with great dialogue that both shows the depth of America's emotional damage and her amazing ability to overcome her past to give love and be loved. Rivera characterizes America as smart (with a helping of self-doubt), tough and willing to do anything for her friends - and they mostly give that right back to her. America seems to be the center of everyone's affections, the absolute star of the book. This creates a "je ne sais quoi" that makes her EXTREMELY magnetic, bolstered by Joe Quiñones' magnificent art and José Villarubia's bright, but nicely saturated color scheme. "Amerca" #1 is just gorgeous to look at and a book that is all types of fun to read. Sotomayor University is a nice touch, named, of course, after our first Latina Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor; and I also dug the nod to the oh-so-cool, sci-fi classic, "The Fifth Element" found in the pages of "America" #1. All in all, I loved this book. I loved the writing - the relationships that America has with her friends, her brave, and damaged heart. I loved the art (sometimes reminiscent of Frank Cho's work), the colors, the humor..."America" #1 is the bee's knees.

RATING: 10 out of 10.

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Thursday, June 1, 2017


It's a WONDER-OUS day fellow Questers!!
    Tomorrow, June 2, 2017 will be even more WONDER-OUS...It is the day that DC's newest offering, Wonder Woman, starring the lovely Gal Gadot as our favorite Amazon warrior, will open in theaters all across the good ol' US of A!! So, to celebrate, I thought I'd break out some Silver Age goodness and dole out some comic book knowledge that you can't get in any college! 

 It's my copy of "Wonder Woman" #159, published by DC Comics in 1966! This comic features the first re-telling of Wonder Woman's origin in the Silver Age, BUT...It's done in a snazzy Golden Age style! And...It just might eventually be a VERY important comic in DC canon...maybe.

  Written by the great Robert Kanigher, and penciled by Ross Andru with inks by Mike Esposito, this issue comes from something akin to a Silver Age comics Dream Team. In this story, which starts in ancient times, Aphrodite and Mars are at odds on whom should rule humanity and how. Mars, god of war, wants to rule with strength and the sword, while Aphrodite wants to rule with the power of love. Aphrodite creates a race of women gifted with the power of love, and a might that makes them stronger than any man. Aphrodite gives their queen, Hippolyte, her magic girdle which makes her, and her Amazon sisters, invincible...As long as she never takes it off. When Mars learns of the magic girdle, he sends Hercules against Hippolyte...who defeats the him in combat. But Herc, the sly dog, gets all lovey-dovey with Hippolyte, tricks her into taking off the girdle, and then he and his men conquer her and her Amazons. Hippolyte prays to Aphrodite for help, which she receives, leading to Hercules' defeat. Afterward, Aphrodite leads the Amazons to a magical island which they name Paradise Island and tells them that if a man ever touches the island, their strength and immortality would be lost forever. Innumerable years later (during WWII), moved by Hippolyte's sadness, the goddess, Athena, causes Hippolyte to create a beautiful clay sculpture of a child, and them the goddess brings it to life giving the queen what she cannot have without a man...A child, which she names...DIANA!

   As a youth, it is obvious that Diana is a gift from the gods - she has speed to rival that of the fleet-footed Mercury, and strength to rival that of the mighty Hercules! Diana grows mighty until the age of nineteen when, on one fateful day, Diana and her friend Mala, find downed pilot, Steve Trevor. Diana heals him (never letting him touch the island's ground). Hippolyte wants Trevor gone, but Diana, feeling her first pangs of love, desires to leave with him which her mother forbids in fear of Diana losing her Amazon powers and immortality. Soon after, Aphrodite comes to Hippolyte and tells her that she must send her greatest Amazon back to the world of men to fight evil and injustice. Hippolyte holds a grand contest, which Diana enters covertly and wins. With her victory, she gains the freedom to follow Steve back to the world of men, a costume designed by Aphrodite herself, and a magic lasso (Lasso of Truth), made of links of Aphrodite's magic girdle, which compels anyone ensnared in it to speak the truth. And thus the birth of WONDER WOMAN!! On to the Fun Facts!!!

FUN FACT 1 - Wonder Woman was created by psychologist and author William Moulton Marsten and artist H.G. Peter. She first appeared in "All Star Comics" #8 in 1941.

FUN FACT 2 - Hippolyte's name was changed to Hippolyta in the 1960s.

FUN FACT 3 - Mars first appeared in "Wonder Woman" #2 in 1942 (Golden Age AKA Earth Two). It is eventually revealed that he was just a manifestation of the Diana's more well known antagonist, Ares.

FUN FACT 4 - The Silver Age brought the advent of comics collecting as a hobby. Kanigher tried to cash in on that burgeoning trend with "Wonder Woman" #159 by creating, as it says on the cover, "Another GREAT COLLECTOR'S ITEM." He took Wonder Woman back to her Golden Age roots by doing his take on William Moulton Marsten's stories, and he even asked Ross Andru to imitate H.G. Peter's art style. Kanigher ditched his own additions to the Wonder Woman mythos, in favor of bringing back villains from the Golden Age. He threw away Wonder Tot, the husbands and sons he'd given to the Amazons, and he even brought back more use of the Lasso of Truth, which had been largely ditched in attempts to stay well within the Comics Code and off the radar of the deranged Fredric Wertham. No bondage allowed.

FUN FACT 5 - It's no surprise that William Moulton Marsten would conceive of something like a Lasso of Truth. He was also the father of the polygraph, also known as the "Lie Detector Test" (which he also published a book about).

FUN FACT 6 - It's also no surprise that Marsten would conceive of a super-powered heroine, made without any man's help. Marsten was a hardcore feminist, and believed that, due to women's less developed thirst for violence and more charitable nature, women were superior to men. In 1937, he also predicted that the world would convert to a matriarchy within the next 100 years. We have twenty years to see how that turns out. Maybe.

FUN FACT 7 - While Batman and Superman were dramatized several times in film, TV and radio in the 1940s, 50s and into the 60s, Wonder Woman was dramatized for the first time in 1966, on a story recorded on a 45rpm record.

FUN FACT 8  - Wonder Woman's alter-ego, Diana Prince is actually another person. The real Diana Prince was an Army Nurse during WWII, whom Wonder Woman helped out financially. The nurse left America to be with her fiance in South America, and Wonder Woman took her identity because their appearances were so similar.

FUN FACT 9 - "Wonder Woman" #159 caused a bigger stir than Kanigher could have ever imagined. Collectors have argued for years about whether or not it is the first CHRONOLOGICAL appearance  of Wonder Woman of Earth One (Silver Age). This would make "Wonder Woman" #159 fall into the same category as the other Silver Age reboots (Earth One stories) of heroes like The Flash (Showcase #4, 1956) and Green Lantern (Showcase #22, 1959).

FUN FACT 10 - Concerning live-action appearances, Wonder Woman has been portrayed by six actresses: Ellie Wood Walker in a failed "Batman '66 - style" 1967 TV pilot, Cathy Lee Crosby in the 1974 TV pilot film, the ever-gorgeous Lynda Carter in the famous TV show (1975-1979), Dawn Zuleta in the Filipino production, "Alias Batman & Robin," by Adrianne Palicki in the 2011 failed TV pilot,  and finally by Israeli bombshell, Gal Gadot, in the DCEU.

Here is Ellie Wood Walker as Wonder Woman (warning - this is REALLY stupid):

Here is a clip of Cathy Lee Crosby as Wonder Woman:

Here is a clip of Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman:

Here is a Adrianne Palicki as Wonder Woman:

Here is a clip of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman:

    Well, that's it for today folks! Be like me...AND GO SEE GAL GADOT LIGHT UP THE SCREEN AS WONDER WOMAN!!

    Happy trails!

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