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Friday, April 27, 2012

Comic Reviews 4/27/12


The comics reviewed are chosen by David not by That's Entertainment management
or staff. The opinions expressed are his alone. If you have an opposing view you
are welcome to respond to David directly by Email at the address above.

Issue Number: 1
Title Arc: The Fire of Creation
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Creator: Walter B. Gibson
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Aaron Campbell
Colors: Carlos Lopez
Letters: Rob Steen
Price (USD): $3.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Crime Drama

Probably one of the most recognizable characters from the pulp era is the
Shadow. He is basically a man of mystery whose real name is Lamont Cranston. He
is recognizable as the Shadow with a wide brimmed hat, a scarf over his mouth
and nose, a trench coat and his dual pistols. Unlike the Comic Code approved
comics in later decades he was a ruthless killer of evil men. This comic
recaptures the style of those stories adding the visual dimension as only comics
can. In fact the art team does a fantastic job. There are a few different
settings that vary in composition, background and action. All are handled well
from a retelling of the horrors of the Japanese occupation of China, to a
waterfront scene where the Shadow confronts and engages a group of thugs
protecting the men he really is after to more civilized settings in a hotel
lobby conversation among Lamont and others discussing his help with intelligence
work against Japanese operatives.  The main plot explores his interactions with
these government operatives, them not knowing about his nocturnal activities.
The other subplot involves his relation with the beautiful miss Margo Lane who
knows his secret. There conversation is used to further reveal his efforts and
touches on a bit of the mystery of how he knows things and his commitment to his
mission. The plot is moving slowly laying the groundwork for what is to come.
This first issue is more about fleshing out the main characters and setting the
stage for later. I think it is a solid start of what appears to be a worthy
adaptation of a classic character.

Issue Number: 0 (of 3)
Publisher: Dark Horse
Creators: Peter Hogan & Steve Parkhouse
Writer: Peter Hogan
Artist: Steve Parkhouse
Price (USD): $3.50
Release Date: NOW ON SALE   
Genre: Science Fiction/Crime

This is another story first introduced in DARK HORSE PRESENTS. In fact this
"zero" issue reprints the parts serialized in DHP #4-6. It is a fascinating
premise executed very nicely. Dr. Harry Vanderspeigler lives a reclusive
lifestyle in a cabin on a lake far from the small town of Patience. He only goes
to town for supplies when he needs them. His privacy is about to be shattered
though when the police chief shows up with a request that he examine the body of
a murder victim in town. Normally that would be the job of the town's doctor but
he happens to be the victim. With those facts you would think that this is not
anything unusual. However, the other bit of information we are shown is that
Harry is actually an alien who has been stranded on our planet. Though his face
and skin do not look human he is able to mask his appearance through his mental
powers to nearly any human. The odds are very tiny it would not work on anyone
he meets. So we have a peaceful visitor who is just biding his time and trying
to avoid any contact with humans until he can return home. Due to circumstances
he will be forced to change all that resulting in a great deal of contact with
lots of people when the replacement doctor is delayed in coming to town. Add the
circumstances of the murder and we can surmise that he will become deeply
involved in that mystery as well. And the specific mention that his power may
not work on one out of a million people makes us wonder if that one person will
just happen to be in this town. I like the comic on different levels. The
premise of Harry's circumstance and how he originally coped is interesting as is
his gradual acceptance of the changes to the point of enjoying the companionship
he had avoided. The murder mystery is growing slowly with hints of a previous
murder covered up and a cliffhanger last panel that brings that plot to the
forefront as the driving force of the comic. The art is very appealing. The two
creators work well in melding script and images to compliment each other. If you
have been reading DHP you will know this already. If not, pick up this comic and
see if you agree.

Title: RESET
Issue Number: 1 (OF 4)
Publisher: Dark Horse
Creator: Peter Bagge
Price (USD): $3.50
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Black & White Humor
Mature - Comics on the Edge

Peter Bagge is one of those independent cartoonists that have a very
recognizable style. His characters have abnormally long and curved arms. It's as
if everyone has stretching powers like Mr. Fantastic. It is very unique. The
composition is well thought out and each person is distinguishable from the
others. His subject matter can often be far out and the characters more often
are on the fringe of society due to mental problems or just plain unsavory
morally. Anyway, this story starts out in a different way. This is about a has
been semi-celebrity named Guy Krause. It starts in a court-ordered DUI class in
Los Angeles. Right from the start we see that Guy has a big chip on his shoulder
and though he is a has been comic he feels he is being singled out by the
teacher for humiliation because of his celebrity status. This scene just serves
to introduce the character and set up a meeting with a researcher named Angela
Minor. She approaches him with a proposition. She is consulting for a tech firm
that is developing a virtual reality game of a very different sort. She offers
Guy the opportunity to use it to relive his life. They have programmed the
machine with information they have gathered about his life - a task a lot easier
due to his former celebrity status. Since he needs the money badly he agrees to
participate. That is the premise of the plot and the significance of the title
has to do with a special feature of the machine. The way it works is that it
starts at a specific point in Guy's life and moves forward. Once it starts he
will be immersed in scenes from his life and the only way to escape it is to
press a button built into an armrest - a reset button. It does not pause the
action it resets it to the original starting point. In Guy's case the starting
point is the day of his high school graduation. He is standing with the class in
cap and gown and the girl nest to him suddenly calls him a spaz. This upsets Guy
and he immediately hits the rest button. The idea of continuing on after a most
humiliating experience is bad enough but if he wants to stay with the program
and collect his money he will have to start again at that same moment. He tries
to move on and even has a scene in a TV show lined up by his agent but
predictably that falls through and when he realizes he needs money badly he
heads back to the reality machine. That is where we get into the meat of the
plot. It really is an interesting premise. As Guy learns to deal with the
situation at the reset point he learns he is rebuilding his own reality. That is
he can interact with people in his past and depending on how he does that he can
change the outcome. It is also clear that Angela has not told all about why they
chose him or the extent of the research they are conducting. It gets more
interesting the more you read. For one Guy's character is over the top with his
self-delusions and lashing out at others based on those perceptions. There is
something about the whole thing that draws you into it. I did not expect much
from this comic but ended up getting more than I expected. I think this one is

Issue Number: 26
Publisher: Image
Creator: Rob Liefeld
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Francesco Caston
Letters: Crank!
Price (USD): $2.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Super Hero

Here is yet another Rob Liefeld cancelled series that is picking up where it
left off with the numbering continuing rather than using a new #1. Bloodstrike
is Cabbot Stone, a clandestine operative with skills in espionage, firearms and
hand-to-hand combat. He has enhanced strength, speed, reaction time, resilience
and endurance. But he is also special because he has been resurrected from the
dead. You could say he is an undead black ops agent for the U.S. government.
Although this is issue 26 it is structured to introduce new readers to
Bloodstrike and his cohorts. It is done with parallel plots running through the
issue. One is set about a month ago with Cabbot back at headquarters having a
session with a female therapist while being monitored by the people in charge of
Operation: Bloodstrike who are concerned that he may not be psychologically
ready to head up another Bloodstrike team. Those sessions reveal Stones past
life including a rough childhood. He also seems to be a loner - no wife or
children and past teammates he claims where not really friends just coworkers.
He had an abusive father and a bullying brother, which steeled his resolve to be
someone better that would do good for others. The other plot thread is in the
present, as we follow Bloodstrike on his current mission against Cybernet's
cybernetic soldiers, lots of them. This shows us his skill and determination and
ability to continue on despite major injury. The scenes back at headquarters,
both in the present and the past, are much more revealing. We see that you don't
have to be a field operative to be vicious, even kill to gain your objective.
The last panel indicates what is in store next for the operation. It seems to be
a recurring theme with the early Image creators to feature some sort of black
ops team as main characters. This one is more interesting because it deals with
the thoughts and emotions of the main character. While there is a fair bit of
combat action the inter-department intrigue is more fascinating. Seeley has put
out a decent script and Caston is a good artist in every detail - much better
than Liefeld who created the character. I enjoyed this comic and skeptics with
preconceptions of what Bloodstrike was like before might want to take a look at
this revival.

Issue Number: 9
Title Story: Day of the Phoenix, Dark Night of the Soul
Title Arc: Avengers vs. X-Men
Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Chris Bachalo
Inkers: Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza & Al Vey
Colors: Chris Bachalo
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Price (USD): $3.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Super Hero

Since this title is tied in with the AVENGERS vs. X-MEN event I thought it would
be a good time to revisit without needing to know much about the story since
issue #1. It has a rather peculiar star set on the Planet Sin. It actually shows
a variety of alien beings watching a large monitor following the progress of the
Phoenix Force and betting on which planet will be wiped out next. It is a brief
segment to remind the readers what the driving theme is in the AvX event and how
irresistibly powerful the Phoenix Force is. With that out of the way we look in
on the Jean Grey School as Captain America comes to visit shortly after Hank and
Logan have themselves learned of the menace approaching from space. But since
this is a book about the next generation of mutant students much time is spent
on those various characters, especially Quentin and Rachel who both suffer some
form of telepathic seizure. They both have connections to the Phoenix force and
muttered "it's coming" before passing out. By the end of the issue Logan calls
together the entire faculty to fill them in on what is approaching and the
reason for Captain America's visit. The Beast will head into space with a team
of Avengers to try and stop the Phoenix. Meanwhile Wolverine reveals where he
will stand in the coming conflict between the two premiere Marvel teams. There
is also a couple of brief scenes form the Shi'ar Throneworld indicating they too
will become involved. Aaron does a good job weaving this ongoing title into the
plot of the major event while still focusing on all the characters that make
this a diverse comic. Wolverine's dilemma is a little over-hyped in my opinion
prior to this issue because once you read it you understand Logan's need to
think long and hard and come to the only conclusion that makes sense for him.
Because it is a crossover issue it does include elements of the event while
advancing issues some of the characters from prior issues. In the context of
just reading the AVX issues I found this tie-in helpful but not essential, as it
should be.

Issue Number: 5
Title Story: Namor: The 99 Daughters of Pontus
Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Mitch Breitweiser
Colors: Mitch & Bettie Breitweiser
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Price (USD): $3.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Super Hero

I have not read this title since the first issue and decided to see what is
happening since then. There is a short recap on the title page that helps us get
caught up. The Defenders had previously found a strange machine buried under
Wundagore Mountain. They discovered it had the ability to warp reality. Now
Namor has notified the others that an excavation team in Atlantis has uncovered
a tomb with the shape of that same machine carved into its door. The other
carvings on the outside are in a long dead language dating back before the
fragmentation of Pangea. And speaking of that, on most of the pages of the book
there are what appear to be phrases written in undecipherable ruins positioned
outside the panel borders at the bottom of the page. This is not explained
anywhere and it is clearly not in the standard placement to be either dialogue
or editorial text. So what is it, and why is it there?  I am not intrigued by it
and if Fraction provides some kind of translation key in a later issue I won't
be going back to decipher it. I think it is a dumb idea. I can understand
untranslated dialogue or text within the panels for story purposes but this
seems to be something else. The main plot has our heroes breaking into the vault
to find a dead giant, assumed to be Pontus from a panel in the title page, who
has been stabbed through the chest by a vessel. Later the vessel is determined
to be the actual Nautilus and perhaps contains the body of Captain Nemo. This is
used to tie in a connection between Nemo and Namor's mother as we get strong
hints in flashback sequences. They also find close to a hundred large eggs that
burst open and emit female warriors with squid-like heads who immediately
attack. While Namor manages to handle this first assault we see that it is far
from over. And by the way, these new beings speak that same strange language. So
we are left with a bit of a mystery to unravel as well as maybe some revealing
facts about Namor's origins. In the end Danny Rand is entertaining Misty Knight
when the next plot comes crashing into their lives. I did not find this issue as
entertaining as the first. For one thing the art is not appealing to me at all.
In most cases the line work is ill defined. A strong inker would improve the
look tremendously. Most of the characters get their time to shine so Fraction
balances the team concept well. The mystery language and how it is used also
turn me off. The main story is ok but I would have to get into the next few
issues to judge how good that is. So I would say this one is a toss up and you
will have to decide for yourself.


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:
Jennifer Connelly played the romantic lead in THE HULK. She also starred in a
film adaptation of what other comic book?

Jennifer co-starred in THE ROCKETEER. The winner this time is Chris Begley.

Here is your no prize question:
How many spikes are there in the Statue of Liberty's crown?

The seven spikes on the Statue of Liberty's crown represent the seven seas and
continents of the world.

Early on, Todd McFarlane had guest creators work on SPAWN.  Most of these were
writers and Todd still did the art.  Which was the first non-Todd team to
actually write and pencil an issue of SPAWN?

Here is your no prize question:
What is considered the most successful entertainment event in history?

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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