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Friday, December 31, 2010

Comic Reviews 1/1/2011

Publisher: DC
Creator: Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Shane David
Inker: Sandra Hope
Colors: Barbara Ciardo
Letters: Rob Leigh
Price (USD): $19.99 - hardcover
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Super Hero

This hardcover has been out for a while now and has been proven to be a top
seller for the year. This is essentially a new look at the Superman mythos with
some reworking of the details. Look at it as an alternate world or Elseworld
though it is not billed as one. In this story Clark sets out to make his way in
the world after graduating from community college. He is like many 20-year olds
not knowing what to do with his life. He can go into one of several fields and
be very successful. In various clips we see him impress people of science,
athletics and finance. He knows the sky is the limit for he has the physicality
or brainpower to do anything and become very rich - if he keeps his powers
hidden from the world. He certainly would like to set up his mother financially
with enough for her lifetime though she points out to him that she does not need
that - that she needs for him to live the life and dream the dreams he longs
for. There are some interesting points where we know his parents have talked to
him about his abilities and his origins. Straczynski does a very innovative
twist on the way he finds out about his Kryptonian origins and the fate of the
planet. Ultimately the story is about whether this Superman can be the
inspiration to the people of the world. The way the plot is set up Clark has not
revealed his presence to the world. He is in Metropolis still deciding what to
do, maybe a reporter's job. But then a huge armada of space ships appears around
the planet and start creating destruction with impunity. Their leader eventually
announces to the world that he is looking for one person, the last survivor of
Krypton. If he reveals himself he will spare the planet. Superman will make his
debut but will he be accepted as a savior or scorned as the cause of the alien
destruction? It is an interesting tweak to the old story having the beings that
actually caused the destruction of Krypton come looking for Kal-El. The
supporting characters are refreshingly new with the same familiarity. The Lois
and Jimmy are an inspiration to Clark as he sees them not only risk danger to
get to the truth of the story but stand up to the aliens when there is no hope
for escape. The scenes with Ma and Pa Kent are also delightful. Straczynski
tells a whole new story without losing the essence of the larger than life
champion we all know. The choice of the art team is fitting. Shane Davis took
pain to give a new look to the classic hero that not only makes him a refreshing
change but also keeps him the way we want to see him. Likewise the other
characters have a different look to them that fits very well with the new
direction. This may be the future of comics, as some seem to think - publishing
in graphic novel format rather than monthly magazines. This particular hero
could catch on as DC's ULTIMATE version of Supermen and already Straczynski is
leaving his monthly work on Superman and Wonder Woman to work on the next novel.
However it turns out this first episode is well worth your time and money. It is
sure to be selling well for some time as people discover how good it is.

Issue Number: 1-Shot
Title Story: No Title (What if Clint Barton Killed Norman Osborn)
Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Jason Henderson
Artist: Sana Takeda
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artist: Mike Deodato & Rain Beredo
Price (USD): $3.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Super Hero

I haven't been reading all the WHAT IF? Issues of the latest group but this one
intrigued me. Dark Reign was such a big deal for Marvel that a look back at one
aspect that could have gone otherwise intrigued me. In the regular storyline
Clint Barton as Ronin - AKA Hawkeye - was so disgusted with Norm Osborn that he
plotted to actually kill him. That never came about and Norman was eventually
taken down. But what if Clint actually carried out the deed? The first question
is how could he get past Norman's personal force shield. Well, there is an arrow
for everything. Next and more the point of the story is how does this affect his
relationships and his status with the general public? Since he is caught on
video he is quickly named public enemy #1. The Avengers are in a quandary but
decide they must capture him before anyone else does. The one most affected is
Mockingbird. She gets to confront him and decide where her loyalties lie. And as
these types of stories can have new elements to make them go wherever the writer
wants this particular ending is not the only possibility. So it turns into a
morality play about the heroic ethic and what happens when they cross the line.
It is a good enough story with adequate art but it really strikes me as
something that should remain in the realm of what ifs.

The backup is the last part of the "What If Venom Possessed Deadpool?" by Rick
Remender, Moll and Wong/Hanna with color by Sotomayor. This is really not my cup
of tea. Venompool is now a big celebrity. Not only did he save the world by
expunging Galactus and the Beyonder from all continuity but also has the number
one hit movie in the world. But then he sees other heroes are still adored by
fans for heroic deeds. So since he thinks he deserves it all he must wipe out
all the heroes. It gets pretty silly in my opinion and the ending is a plot
devise that is very convenient. It is filler at best though I liked the art from
pencil to finished color.

Issue Number: 586
Title Story: Part Four: World-Eater!
Creator: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Steve Epting
Inker: Rick Magyar
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: Rus Wooton
Cover Artist: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer & Javier Rodriguez
Price (USD): $2.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Super Hero

The FANTASTIC FOUR has been running the "Countdown to Casualty" story with this
being the penultimate issue. In January #587 is supposed to conclude the story
and in an attempt to keep the secret of who dies the issue will ship poly-bagged
as did Superman #75 - the issue that Superman died. The hope is the answer will
only be revealed on new comic day when fans rip open the bag. We'll see how well
that works. Meanwhile we have three plots going in different directions and in
different places, any one of which could prove fatal to a member of the FF.
Below the sea in the Gulf of Thailand Sue Storm has accompanied Namor to a
parlay with the leadership of the tribes of Old Atlantis. Namor surprised
everyone when at this peace meeting he abruptly killed Ul-Uhar, the King of Old
Atlantis. Now it seems like Sue, Namor and his personal guards are surrounded by
the various tribes and are about to be slaughtered. But of course Namor had all
this planned and has forces outside the meeting coming to bear. Sue manages to
hold of the conflict with her power but for how long? And Namor reveals
information that sheds a different light on his actions and the tribes'
intentions. The second plot follows Reed Richards who is with the Silver Surfer
and Galactus travelling to Nu-World. The New Defenders of Nu-World had used
Galactus' body to escape from the future, which killed him in the process. The
Silver Surfer discovered the dead body in our present and naturally Galactus
wants to prevent his future death. The dilemma is how to stop the fate of Earth
500 years from now. The Sun weakens and many billions will die as the Earth
cools. Galactus poses to Reed Richards that he find a way to stop this future
from happening or Galactus will destroy Earth now to prevent his own future
death. What Galactus says he will do while Richards does this puts Reed at risk.
Finally we have Johnny and Ben back at the Baxter Building with Valeria and
Franklin. Ben has been temporarily turned back into human flesh for a week. This
"cure" gives him one week a year to his old self. They will soon have to cope
with the Cult of the Other Side of Zero and their leader the Anti-Priest who are
about to attempt to capture the Negative Zone portal in the building for their
master, Annihilus. As the cult teleports in where Johnny and Ben are located the
kids have their hands full with insect like creatures in another part of the
building. As they all rush to the lab to defend the portal it could be too
little too late and deadly for someone. So you see the stage is set for one
member of Marvel's first family to meet their end next month in the final
chapter. I like the writing here and because I have not been a regular reader a
few of the characters are new to me. But the plot is clear to follow with a bit
of recap text at the start. I think the art is spectacular for my taste with
strength in pencil, ink and color in just the right mix. Many complain that they
are tired of the hero dying plots overused of late only to have the dead person
come back a year or less later. This may or may not be one of those stories, but
it is still entertaining and I'll be looking for the next issue to see how they
handle it.

Issue Number: 7
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Creator: Robert Jordan
Script: Chuck Dixon
Artist: Andie Tong
Letters: Bill Tortolini
Price (USD): $3.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Fantasy

Occasionally I will pick a comic at random to see what it is all about. A lot of
what I review here are first issues, which is an easier task than picking up a
series in mid-plot and being able to be fair with the review. So I feel a bit
defensive about giving negative reactions without seeing the big picture as
intended by the creators. The counter to that argument is that every comic is
someone's first comic and should be entertaining enough on its own to capture
that reader and make him or her want more. I must say, for me, this issue of
WHEEL OF TIME did not do that for me. First there is no explanation about the
story up to this point. It just opens with a group of people riding horses under
a full moon. Then the text in the captions is redundant right on the first page,
"On the... North Road...the horses...raced northward..." The very next sentence begins,
"On and on they sped, northward..." I think we get the point, they are heading
north. So this group of travellers is racing to or from something, both
actually. They stop for a brief rest and we learn, if you haven't already been
reading the series, that one of them has magical powers to wash away fatigue not
only from the horses but the travellers themselves. The leader warns them they
cannot stop for long until they cross the river and sure enough a Draphkar scout
soon swoops from the sky to harass them. Picture it as a man-like creature with
huge bat wings. Now they know they are being tracked and once again take to the
road to the town where they will find a ferry to cross the river. Most of the
story is told in narrative style and the illustrations are different than I am
used to. At times they seem like animation cells with vibrant colors and good
use of shading and black. I enjoyed seeing how Andie Tong sets the mood and
composes each page differently. My overall reaction is there are some
interesting scenes and character interactions but I am at a loss as to the big
picture - the why and how we got to this point and what is the ultimate goal. To
be fair I would seek out the first issue to start right on this series. I can't
recommend you start with issue #7.

Title: MAGUS
Issue Number: 1
Publisher: 12-Gauge Comics
Creators: Jon Price & David Norton
Writer: Jon Price
Artist: Rebekah Isaacs
Colors: Charlie Kirchoff
Letters: Ed "Duke" Dukeshire
Cover Artist: Fiona Staples
Price (USD): $3.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Supernatural

The tagline for this comic is, "Where were you when the magic came back?" It
looked like an interesting cover by Fiona Staples and I kind of enjoyed RPM from
this company so I decided to give it a shot. There is a girl named Lena and at
the beginning of the story she is asleep in her bed at a mental health
institution. A security guard lets himself into her room with ill intentions and
she reacts by bursting into flames. Well, that got my attention right away. The
next scene has a couple of teenagers, Darius and Ben, in the middle of a debate
on whether Luke Skywalker was gay when they happen on Lena in the shed where she
ended up after escaping. Ben runs to tell the priest, Father Swain, who was
discussing a presence of magic felt by his visitor, Danae. Danae informs him she
is sure it is a girl named Lena Cullen who is extremely dangerous. So we have
the priest obviously involved in some government operative concerned about the
presence of magic. Later in the issue we see glimpses of strange occurrences in
other areas of the country and eventually a top secret official meets with the
president to inform him that magic is returning to our world, and they may not
be able to stop it. Lena is not an isolated case and she may yet play a bigger
part in the story as it seems will Darius. They even give us a few preview pages
from the next issue to cement those thoughts. I liked this issue as a good
beginning. It had interesting characters with clean art polished with terrific
coloring. We get enough of the main plot to intrigue us but we know there is a
lot to be revealed. There is even a guy lurking in a few panels that is easy to
overlook but I am sure is a key player. It is a good set up and shows promise
for the future. I would give it a try based on this issue.

Issue Number: 1-shot
Publisher: IDW
Creator: Joe Hill
Writer: Jason Ciaramella
Artist: Zach Howard
Colors: Nelson Daniel
Letters: Robbie Robbins
Price (USD): $3.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Horror
MATURE - Comics on the Edge

First, this comic is not related to the new TV series soon to debut, which looks
pretty cool from the ads I have seen. This is based on a short story written by
Joe Hill, the creator of LOCKE & KEY. That tells you it may well be a darker
story despite the cover image of a scruffy young man seemingly flying. It starts
with too young pre-teen boys playing at heroes and villains. Eric is the Red
Bolt wearing a cape fashion by his mother from his lucky blanket of his younger
days. It has a lightning bolt on the back and his MIA father's marine patch on
the shoulder. The other boy, Rick, is The Streak with only an eye mask and water
pistol. In the course of playing Eric climbs a tree to simulate flying when the
branch he is standing on lets go. He is seemingly suspended in mid air until he
takes off the cape and plummets to the ground. His shoulder and head are impaled
on the branch and his life is forever changed. After several operations and a
shunt in his brain he is still plagued with splitting headaches. He leads a less
than stellar life until his roommate introduces him to a girl, Angie, who has
similar interests in literature and video games. They hit it off and eventually
move in together but while she plans her life carefully and graduates as a nurse
he can't get is act together eventually running foul of the law for a DUI. As
her career progresses his goes nowhere and they begin to grow apart. When she
finally leaves and he has to move in with his mother it seems like he is doomed
to go nowhere. But when he discovers his old cape things changed dramatically.
When he discovers the secret of the cape long thought to have been thrown away
he sets out to find Angie and make things right. How he does that is the twist I
can't reveal. I liked this story for its straightforward plot, which is well
rendered by the art team. The layouts and finishes make it seem more dynamic
than the script calls for until the very end grabs you somewhat unexpectedly.
All the way Hill takes his time with character development and sequences that
point one way until it appears there will be redemption in the end. It is very
clever and a good diversion from a "normal" story of a man who is given a gift.
How Eric handles it gives it a great finish.

Issue Number: 79
Title Story: World's Finest - part 1
Publisher: DC
Writer: Chris Roberson
Artist: Jesus Merino
Colors: Blond
Letters: John J. Hill
Cover Artist: Fiona Staples
Price (USD): $2.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Super Hero

I picked this issue to revisit SUPERMAN/BATMAN because it involves the 853rd
century and some of the characters created in Grant Morrison's series DC ONE
MILLION. The significance of the million is a calculation of which century the
issue numbers of the main DC titles would reach one million. In that world each
hero is connected to a planet - Aquaman to Neptune, Flash to Mercury, Batman to
Pluto and so on. I was hoping for a story that fully involves some of those
characters and at first it seems it might. Yet another cover by Fiona Staples
grabbed my attention in anticipation of the story within. A time traveler
calling himself Epoch, The Lord of Time, materializes on Mercury and quickly
defeats Flash and The Atom but is soon captured by the Batman and Superman of
this era. He is remanded to Batman's custody and taken to the Asylum planet of
Pluto for incarceration. Unknown to the heroes this is all part of his plan as
he needs to steal something from the Batcave. He quickly disables the robot
Robin of this era and sets his plan in motion. It involves a power suit stored
in the cave with which he can use boom tube technology to transport himself to
the places where he can retrieve his Anti-Hourglass and eventually his Chrono-
cube. With the world's finest heroes hot on his trail we will see how easily he
could have escaped capture and how easily he should be able to escape now. The
suit is the key to fulfilling his destiny as master of Earth in a different time
period where he will have to confront a very different Superman, Batman and
Robin team. As I said I was hoping for more involvement in the 853rd century.
While it does mostly take place there it is merely a stopping point for the rest
of the story. At one point Superman refers to his Five-Dimensional hearing,
being able to hear Batman's call while Superman was in the Fifth Dimension. This
struck me as odd and a bit comical. The villain seems to get away with too much
too quickly, especially when confronted by Superman. I felt it was the weak part
of the plot. The renderings are decent though as Merino and Blond do a very
detailed job with every aspect of the story from the characters to the
technology and action sequences. I give it an average grade and hope for
something more realistic and spectacular when the story concludes next issue.

Issue Number: 1 (of 4)
Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Rafa Sandoval
Inker: Roger Bonet
Colors: Matthew Wilson
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Cover Artist: Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary & Laura Martin
Price (USD): $3.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Super Hero

Marvel seems to be deliberately structuring stories for reprint compilations
these days. This is the third part of a trilogy of stories that began in
ULTIMATE ENEMY and continued in ULTIMATE MYSTERY. Each title ran for four
issues, as does this one, which makes it easy to compile each as one trade.
Perhaps it is easier for fans to commit to a four-issue run and if they like it
enough to continue on to the next four issue arc. Maybe they would be more
reluctant about one title that ran for twelve issues, what is commonly called a
maxi-series. Regardless, it is all one story and this title is the finishing
segment. In the past a seemingly unearthly force has attacked the infamous
Roxxon Corporation and the Baxter Building with Reed Richards apparently one of
the casualties. Peter Parker has teemed up with his female clone, Jessica Drew,
AKA Spider-Woman, to try and determine who the enemy is. She goes undercover as
a scientist at Roxxon but is eventually discovered and captured by the young
brain trust there. The remains of the FF, with a newly transformed Ben Grimm,
are working with S.H.I.E.L.D. to also solve the mystery. At the conclusion of
Ultimate Mystery Sue is transported by Rick Jones, who himself has some
incredible powers, to Project Pegasus where they confront Reed Richards with
some rather large alien goons stealing classified materials. Evidently he is the
Ultimate Enemy solving that mystery. You can imagine the heated exchange between
the former lovers with her in disbelief and he taking a far too arrogant
superior tone. At this point you wonder if Reed is possessed or has just been
this way all along, finally snapping when Sue dumped him. This is the Ultimate
Universe where anything can happen. This is a rather lengthy confrontation,
which for the purposes of the larger plot does not resolve the problem.
Meanwhile Jessica is now helpless as she is probed and examined as the others
are not familiar with who she is but soon learn she is a mutant of sorts. Only
their superior revealed at the end knows of her origins. They all suspect she
knows who attacked Roxxon and so are heading down the wrong path. The final
sequence has the remaining team at S.H.I.E.L.D., including the Ultimate version
of Captain Marvel, coping with a set back and preparing to go after Reed
Richards. If you want to jump on the story at this point there is a pretty
concise recap on the first page to get you up to speed. However I would
recommend you start form the beginning with ULTIMATE ENEMY to get all the
details and motivations along the way that lead to this point. I have enjoyed
the story so far. While I felt this issue drags out the opening scene a bit too
much the art team does a great job with a lot of action finely rendered right
down to the finished colors. The Ultimate books continue to be some of my
favorite comics.


If you think you know the answer to the trivia question send your guess via
Email to me at and you could win the prize. The first six
correct answers will be assigned a number and a roll of the dice will determine
the winner. You should put your real name in your message so we know who you
are. Prizes must be claimed at our store within 30 days of winning. The prize
will be a $10 credit slip, which will be redeemable for merchandise at regular
retail or in-store ongoing specials only. Only one prize per person will be
allowed per every 4 weeks. I will be the sole judge of the correct answer even
if more than one answer could be correct. Submit only one answer per Email
please but guess as often as you like.

Last week's trivia question:
In what two major feature films did George Reeves, TV's Superman, have bit

Reeves had parts in both "From Here to Eternity" and "Gone With the Wind" but we
also gave credit to those who guessed "Knute Rockney". The winner by the dice is
Erin O'Connor.

Here was your no prize question:
Who first uttered the now famous phrase, "Elvis has left the building?"
Al Dvorin was the first to say, "Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the
building. Thank you and good night." He said this at a concert where Elvis had
performed in Minneapolis in 1954.

In the "Origin of the Legion" in 1968 who joined the Legion of Super-Heroes
first after the three founders?

Here is your no prize question:
From what source did the group Duran Duran get their name?

Folks, you never know who among the readers is knowledgeable about the question
so don't hesitate to send in an answer - even days after it appears.

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