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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Comic Reviews - 3/23/11

Publisher: Eureka Productions
144 pages, 7" X 10" paperback, full color
Cover Artists: Front - Cynthia Martin, Back - Ryan Huna Smith
Price (USD): $17.95
Release Date: March 2011
Genre: Western Anthology

Often when I review an anthology I look for the good, the bad and the ugly (a little Western reference there.) This volume consists of seven stories and a poem all adapted and illustrated by modern creators. Where else would you find Zane Grey, Robert E. Howard, Willa Cather, Trina Robbins, Dan Spiegle, Al Feldstein and a host of other creators all in one book? So lets see what we have.

"Riders of the Purple Sage" by Zane Grey. Adapted by Tom Pomplun and illustrated
by Cynthia Martin. This the longest story in the volume running 48 pages. It is
by far the best of the lot. I am familiar with the source material only by name
but I can see why it is a classic. Zane Grey is the master. He wrote nearly
ninety novels selling over 13 million copies making him the best selling western
novelist. This story has a little of everything. A woman trying to hold on to
her homestead and cattle business is besieged by a corrupt minister with a lot
of power in a small western town. When she tries to keep her rider, Venters,
from being falsely accused of a shooting the minister and his thugs try to drive
him off but the arrival of a stranger who thwarts the effort. It turns out this
new man, Lassiter, has a bit of a reputation but he is also searching for the
grave of his sister who is buried on the Jane Withersteen's land. They become
friends. The story gets involved with cattle rustlers and a secret one of them
has involving Lassiter. It is too involved to get into in detail other than to
say it has lots of character development and plot turns. Lassiter originally
wanted to avenge his sister but in the end settles for justice and though
fortunes are made and lost there is satisfying resolution for all the good guys
and just desserts for the bad guys. Pomplun clearly worked hard to capture the
essence of the story and Cynthia Martin does a fantastic job in bringing it to
life. This one story is worth the price of the book.

"Knife River Prodigal" by Robert E. Howard. Adapted by Ben Avery and illustrated
by George Sellas. I was not aware that Robert E. Howard had done a western story
as he was most noted for "Conan" and the sword and sorcery genre. This tale has
a bit of humor to it. A young man named Buckner gets into a gunfight with the
wrong man so his pappy tells him to leave home and head for California. Along
the way he hooks up with a gang of thugs and sees their true colors when they
hit town. It is a story of redemption but is played for the humor as well. The
art is appropriate for the material so the combination makes a delightful entry
in the mix.

"The Right Eye of the Commander" by Bret Harte. Adapted by David Hontiveros and
illustrated by Reno Maniquis. This is not only a western but also a mystery
tale. It involves the commander of the Presidio in 1797 that at a point in his
career lost his right eye to a wound from an arrow. One stormy night the master
of a schooner from Massachusetts sought shelter from a raging storm with the
commander's permission. After a night of hospitality and too much drink the
schooner was on its way and the commander arose to find his right eye socket now
had a glass eye in it. The natives under his protection treated this new
development as a miracle of Saint Carlos. As time goes on they find it casts a
pall on their attitudes and they fear even looking at it. Indeed the eye seems
to slowly change the demeanor and attitude of the commander. It is a subtle
horror that ends with a somewhat satisfying resolution and a hint of what may
come in the future on another shore. I liked the story and the art was good but
not great. I would say this one is slightly above average.

"The Holdup" starring Hopalong Cassidy by Clarence E. Mulford. Adapted by Tim
Lasiuta and illustrated by Dan Spiegle. I have been a fan of Dan Spiegle's work
from decades ago. While the style and line detail is appealing to me I think the
coloring on this one did not work as well as it should. But it still is a better
than average story in the fashion of a good old cowboy hero I remember a little
bit from my youth. If fact Hopalong Cassidy is one of the most popular cowboy
characters of his day with more movies than any other cowboy hero including Roy
Rogers. This story has a basic plot with Hoppy and his friends riding a train
back to their ranch after a cattle drive. They learn of a previous hold up on
this line from talking with the crew. When the same gang tries to rob this train
of the payroll it is carrying Hoppy and his crew are ready to defend the train.
I like this one for story and art taking off slightly for the coloring but that
is personal taste.

"La Perdida" by Gertrude Atherton. Adapted by Trina Robbins and illustrated by
Arnold Arre. This is a story of a girl who was forced into an arranged marriage
with a much older man at the age of fourteen. Two years later she fell in love
with a boy her own age and they both felt the rage of her husband as the boy is
thrown in prison while the girl is shamed into toiling in the village in public
disgrace. It is only a series of circumstances and timing that might find a way
for the two to be together in happiness. The story is short and sweet with a
predictable outcome. The art is a unique style that works well. I would give
this one a B grade as well.

"The Last Thundersong" by John G. Neihardt. Adapted by Rod Lott and illustrated
by Ryan Huna Smith. This story involves life on the plains where the whites and
Indians live in peace. A very hot summer has gotten so bad that even men of
faith wonder if they are being punished. In that setting we watch as the old
medicine man prepares to perform a rain dance to awaken the thunder spirits.
Watching are a newspaperman, a preacher, a physician and an Indian Agent. The
dialogue among these four men is most interesting as they ponder the values of
the Indians, their culture and their vision of God. As the old man began his
dance it is not long before the younger men of the tribe show how time and
mixing with the whites have changed attitudes about the old ways. It is very
clever and the punch line comes when the preacher visits the old man in private.
I like the story that succeeded in making its point in a brief but succinct
fashion. The art is very similar to Rick Geary so there is that appeal to it.
This one is above the average.

"El Dorado" by Willa Cather. Adapted by Rich Rainey and illustrated by John
Findley. After expecting to be let down at some point I got to the last story
and found this gem penned originally by the well-known writer Willa Cather. It
is a fascinating story of a man who bought into the dream of making a fortune in
the new west after successfully running a moneymaking business in a general
store in Virginia City. An introduction by a friend lead to a gradual wearing
down of his resistance when he is asked to get in on the ground floor in a town
called EL Dorado. The organizer of the investors sold several prominent
businessmen on the fact that it is a brand new town located where every railroad
of the west converged. It would soon be a boomtown and all would get rich on the
growth to come. When the false claims were revealed at first the slick organizer
always had a response and a new promise with others to arrive soon. One by one
the promises proved to be false and the organizer, who also owned the bank, left
town to bring back his family. But a telegram soon arrived saying his father was
dying and his remaining relatives in El Dorado left to see their father as well.
When they did not return the town started to die a slow death. One by one the
settlers cut their losses and headed back east. But Colonel Bywaters always saw
things through to the end and decided to stay with his new store and no
clientele except an occasional wagon passing through. There is a resolution to
the story in an ironic twist that closes things nicely. The art is strong on
this one, the most appealing in the volume. I still rank it just below Riders of
the Purple Sage but above all the rest.

"Out Where the West Begins" by Arthur Chapman, illustrated by Al Feldstein. This
is an introductory poem that serves the volume well to set the stage for what is
to come. The illustration of a cowboy on the range is exceptional.

This volume intrigued me when I first learned of it and am glad I had the chance
to read it. As I said at the beginning it is a strong anthology worth the price.
I never did find the bad or the ugly and that is a good thing.

Issue Number: 3 (of 6)
Publisher: Radical Comics
Creator: Darren Lynn Bousman
Writers: Rob Levin & Troy Peteri
Artists: Bing Cansino, Rodell Noora & Dennis Calero
Colors: Andrei Pervukhin
Letters: Troy Peteri
Cover Artist: Tae Young Choi
Price (USD): $3.50
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Horror
Suggested for Mature Readers - Comics on the Edge

This story started out rather slowly though the horror element entered into the
very first chapter. As it has progressed the plot got more involved and the
protagonist got into more of a dilemma. Richard Ashwalt is a real estate agent
who got the unenviable task of selling a house where a local man brutally
murdered his own family. Before the house is even cleaned up a mysterious man
named Jebediah Crone offers to buy it but Richard senses something wrong and
refused. From there on his life gets more troubled. His boss sold the house to
Crone anyway and Richard is suddenly named as a person of interest in another
murder. Having been warned by a friend he goes underground and sneaks back to
the house to find clues to what is happening. What he found disturbed him even
more. All traces of the murder are gone but he found a mirror that disturbs him.
Needing to clear his name he needs to track down Crone but there are no
reference to him that he can find in public records. Under an assumed name he
goes to visit another real estate agent who dealt with Crone in the past. He
tells a story of yet another house where a furious wife killed her cheating
husband and his lover before hanging herself. Crone bought that house back then
and this agent lead Richard to yet another contact with more information. It is
clear to Richard by now that Crone is seeking house touched by violent death.
The next contact has a similar tale with a different ending and there is a
surprise revelation at the last page. This series grew on me after the second
issue and this one really gets things moving along. There is a subtle exposure
to plot elements as we go along but we really haven't got to the motivation of
the antagonist yet. Apparently he is not the only one with a hidden agenda
either. The story is gripping and continues at a rapid pace. The art is
appealing with good layouts and detail. The coloring gives it a hue that really
sets the mood. This is one of the better books from Radical.

Issue Number: 1
Title Story: Neither Heaven Nor Hell
Title Arc: The Grim Ghost Returns
Publisher: Atlas
Writers: Tony Isabella & Stephen Susco
Artist: Kelley Jones
Inker: Eric Layton
Colors: Kieran Oats
Letters: Richard Emms
Price (USD): $2.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Supernatural Hero

I decided to sample another Atlas reboot of their old comic book line. When I
saw Tony Isabella was in on the writing I felt pretty good about what it would
be like. Tony is the creator of Black Lightning for DC. The last time he handled
the writing chores for BLACK LIGHTNING it was one of the best books on the
racks. It is well worth seeking out in the back issue bins. The setting is in a
place between the living world and the hereafter - between heaven and hell.
Those that exist here have not passed on to the afterlife and exist in this
limbo realm known as the Fringe that is a nightmare version of the place they
knew when they lived. One such person is Michael who has newly arrived. Those
here do not retain the memory of their life. There is another here who has
become Michael's friend and mentor. Matthew Dunsinane is a protector in this
realm who wears a cape and mask and goes by the name of Grim Ghost. There are
also evil people in the realm led by Braddock, the Grim Ghost's enemy. In life
the two were enemies in the time of the American Revolution. Now they are both
doomed to this netherworld. Braddock seeks to capture the souls of the newly
arrived while the Grim Ghost tries to thwart him. The plot for this first issue
involves one such conflict with Michael lending GG a hand as his more or less
prot‚g‚. It may be that down the road Michael will become a new Grim Ghost but
for now he is learning how to deal with a power that he has in the Fringe. It is
decent plotting with lots of exposition and character development ending on a
somewhat cryptic note. The art is dynamic with good layouts and coloring that
sets the mood. It is a decent first issue that could develop into a good series.

Issue Number: 1 (of 4)
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Creator: Blake Masters
Writers: Blake Masters & Michael Alan Nelson
Artist: Michael Penick
Colors: Darrin Moore
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Karl Richardson/Rael Lyra
Price (USD): $3.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Science Fiction

This one reads like it is the basis for a video game. The year is 3000 when
pollution, poverty and armed conflict have been eliminated from Earth. The same
can't be said for the places off-world where geo-economic blocs wage war over
the ores on a moon in the outer rim that make the utopia possible. We witness a
skirmish in one such war on Sparta. The weapons of war have very sophisticated
and brutal. Androids called Auts fight against the Retsu and just when they have
the upper hand tragedy strikes. The main plot follows the replacement Aut for
the team leader lost in that battle and the Glomrat executive Hal Windsor sent
to oversee the operations on Sparta. It touches on the relationships betweens
the humans of the story, the Auts among themselves and the interaction between
the group. We witness human foibles and weakness. We see Auts that act very
human for the most part, including emotional attachments. There are some brief
scenes that promise subplots to develop and in the end a cliffhanger to set off
the action. There is a lot stuffed into a standard length comic and it all reads
easily and sensibly. The art is well done giving us a variety of layouts and
thrilling action sequences. I am not sure if it will blossom into a great comic
but the beginning is worth a read.

Issue Number: 1-Shot
Title Story: The Sea Ghost in the Machine
Publisher: Nemo Publishing
Creator: Jay Piscopo
Price (USD): $3.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Super Hero

If the style looks familiar in this comic it is because it is a homage to SPACE GHOST as well as the body of work of Alex Toth and a little bit of Aquaman thrown in as well. Sea Ghost lived in the undersea ruins of Atlantis with his children Coral and Triton. Commander X contacts him about a temporal displacement and when he swims out to investigate he is trapped in a mysterious globe and whisked away to another planet. What he finds is a divided world with two species. There is a group called the Phlan live under the sea while the
Simas took dominion of the surface world in an uneasy truce after years of war.
Now both groups believe they are near the end times when only one species will
rule the entire world for the glory of their god Vorrgoth. Sea Ghost learns all
this while prisoner of the Phlan and when he has learned enough he easily
escapes demanding to know why he was brought here. The Phlan do not know and
suspect he is a weapon of the Simas. When he visits the Simas he meets the same
conundrum. It is up to Sea Ghost to end the senseless war if he can and discover
his role in it all and who brought him here. This is indeed a fun if you get
into the theme and style intended. It reads like a plot for a cartoon hero but
with a little more depth. The art is also characteristic of the genre so Piscopo
has done what he set out to do. The only distracting flaw is the lettering. All
the dialogue balloons are semi-transparent showing a bit of the scene through
them. I did not care for this choice at all so points off for that. It is still
a fun comic nonetheless.


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:
From the Silver Age:
Who was the black guy in EASY COMPANY?
It was Jackie Johnson and many entrees got it right. The winner by the dice is
Stan Hosmer.

Here was your no prize question:
For us real old timers - On which television show did Tom Terrific and Mighty
Manfred the Wonder Dog make their debut?
Tom Terrific was a cartoon segment created specifically for the Captain Kangaroo
Show that aired from the Fifties through the Sixties. The Captain's show set a
record for children's programs running for and unprecedented 30 years from 1955
to 1985. The Trivia Hall of Fame welcomes Sean Fowler for getting it first.

In the late Forties / early Fifties, the UPA film studio created a series of
abstractly drawn cartoons featuring 'Gerald McBoingBoing', 'Madeleine', and
'Mister Magoo'. The simple lines and abstract, minimal backgrounds made the
animation easy and inexpensive (although relatively lavish by today's television

Designer/Director (and former UPA exec) Gene Deitch created 'Tom Terrific' with
this in mind; the imaginative scripts and stylized designs hid the fact that the
animation necessary for kid's TV budgets was so crude. The scripts were tongue-
in-cheek and the music was minimal as well - mostly just an accordion. One guy,
Lionel Wilson, did all of the voices.

In the stories, Tom had the ability to change into any shape he could imagine in
order to save his loveable (and lazy) dog Mighty Manfred from the clutches of
the villainous Crabby Appleton and other do-badders in three five-minute
segments that made up each story arc.

Which DC villain was the first encountered by The Sovereign Seven?

Here is your no prize question:
Who was the first female athlete to pose nude for Sports Illustrated?
(Not a
"swimsuit issue" even!)

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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