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Friday, September 7, 2012

Comic Reviews 9/7/12


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: Graphic Novel - Volume 1
Publisher: Tor
Creator: Madeleine Rosca
Letters: Tom Orzechowski
Price (USD): $10.99
160 pages/digest sized/black & white
Release Date: September 1, 2012
Genre: Steampunk Manga

Madeleine Rosca is an acclaimed Manga artist who won accolades for her three-volume series HOLLOW FIELDS in 2007. Japan's foreign minister awarded it as best international Manga and she was nominated for awards by Australia's Aurealis Awards and best new talent by Friends of Lulu. Whether you are familiar with that work or are just a Manga fan you will surely be enthralled by this latest effort. The story is set in Victorian London around 1895 with the twist that the city has been propelled into a new golden age through the impact of steam-driven technology. Robots have taken the jobs of London's lower classes and that has become the source of protests among the poor. The man who brought about this change is Erasmus Croach and his mysterious Ember Steamboat Factory. To help control the masses Captain Thorn of Scotland Yard has employed Ember's latest creation, the automaton police boy, Sky. But all is not peaceful in the Croach household. Erasmus agreed to watch over his niece, Sally Peppers, from her globetrotting parents. He has no love for the child and would rather not even see her. So she is sequestered in the mansion literally chained to a desk and forced to learn academics from a maidbot governess with strict rules. Well, Sally is both brilliant and headstrong. Seeing the riots outside the window she cannot help but make an escape by stealing a steam-driven velocipede (like a motorcycle) and even manages to stumble into no-rules road rally through the slums. As the story unfolds Captain Thorn is tasked by Croach to bring her back safely by any means in exchange for help in locating children that have been disappearing from the streets. This is where Sky enters her life. Sky himself is a unique robot not just for his abilities of superior strength, firepower and flight but also for the fact that somehow he apparently has dreams. As Sally and Sky become in an adventure by accidentally crashing into an underground secret a mystery slowly builds as the first volume ends with a startling revelation. I can see why Rosca has gotten critical acclaim. Her skill as a storyteller and artist are superb. The artwork is clean and dynamic in true Manga fashion. The characters have a unique flavor to them that is often comical and endearing. Croach is the perfect bad guy while the Captain is perfectly the authority figure who wants to do right but is hampered by circumstance. You will enjoy the banter between Sally and Sky as well as the other characters. This is a well thought out story that moves deliberately in a quick pace. I am hooked on this one and you will be too.

Issue Number: Annual #1
Title Story: Prologue
Title Arc: Rise of the Third Army
Publisher: DC
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ethan Van Sciver
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Price (USD): $4.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Super Hero

Now that DC is coming out with annuals for many of the New 52 I decided to sample one this time around. Luckily I managed to grab GREEN LANTERN before it sold out its first printing. Since this is the beginning of the next big arc in the GL books it will be back on the shelves quickly. As I allude to in my review of one of the regular issues a little while ago the Guardians seem to have gone over to the dark side. As explained in the opening pages they have watched over the universe for billions of years with great care. Their mission has always been to eliminate chaos. At first they thought emotion was the weakness that led to chaos so they built their first army, the emotionless Manhunters. However that experiment failed when the Manhunters went too far and slaughtered an entire sector. Next they believed fear to be behind chaos and so they recruited fearless beings across the universe to become their second army, the Green Lantern Corps. Now they believe that not only fear but also hope, rage, love and other factors have exacerbated chaos throughout the cosmos. Now they are at odds with the Green Lanterns and all the corps. Believing willpower is the true fuel behind chaos they are setting in motion a plan to eradicate free will. To do this they will create a third army that will have no will but that of the Guardians. This prologue covers the first two soldiers in that army and how the Guardians gain the power to create them. It also involves Hal Jordan and Sinestro who at the start of the story are at the mercy of Black Hand who rose again a short time ago. The two Lanterns are in the battle of their lives with little power left while the Guardians amass great power elsewhere. The source of that power is a secret locked away for centuries. The task for their third army will be to silence all the Lanterns forever. It is a chilling prospect that promises to be another hit among DC fans. When I first saw Van Sciver's work on his creator owned comics I remarked he was an excellent artist that needs to be drawing other people's stories. He really does great work and when combined with Geoff John's story and good coloring it makes for an amazing comic. THE RISE OF THE THIRD ARMY has started with a bang and will surely be the big event at DC.

Issue Number: 1-Shot
Title Story: Looker
Publisher: DC
Creators: Mike W. Barr & Jim Aparo
Writer: Ian Edington
Artist: Mike S. Miller
Colors: Rex Lokus with Antonio Fabela
Letters: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover Artist: Guillem March
Price (USD): $3.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Horror

This is the second comic with the logo of NATIONAL COMICS in the title. For those younger readers DC was originally National Periodical Publications but as to why they have resurrected that for these one-shot books I haven't a clue. Like Kid Eternity, Looker is an established minor character in the DC universe. She is Emily Briggs and we get a recap as to how she went from being a supermodel, one of the world's most beautiful woman, to owning her owning her own agency because of a change in her life. You see she had a one-night stand with a vampire, through no choice of her own and was turned into one herself. Rather than give in to the blood lust she controls it with blood-laced drinks. But she no longer can do outdoor shoots or even show up on film so she began her own agency to help others. The story for this one-shot involves the disappearance of two of her models right before the big debut of one of them at a major show. Evidence in the makeup room has a strange effect on Emily causing her to realize this was not an ordinary case of flaky models gone bad but an abduction, though not in the normal sense. When one of the girls is found dead Emily will use her contacts and abilities to track down the other and the source of the abduction. Through the course of the story we learn how Emily took in her two closest associates and how valuable they are to her.  We also meet a blind sculptor that can be a source of information as well as emotional conflict for our heroine. Since this is a self-contained story the second half involves more action and a not so conventional antagonist. I was attracted to this comic by the alluring cover work of Guillem March and was more than satisfied with the interior work by the art team. This is a well-structured story that flows nicely from start to end and leaves promise for the future should it catch on. From what I see it just might.

Issue Number: 1 (of 4)
Title Story: Chasing Shadows
Publisher: DC
Writers: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Cat Staggs
Inker: Tom Derenick
Colors: Jason Wright
Letters: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover Artist: Amanda Conner with Paul Mounts
Price (USD): $2.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Super Hero

Though Doll Man receives billing on the cover and on the inside splash page the title is simply PHANTOM LADY. The character has been around for a long time though rarely seen these days. I have already had one conversation with a fan of the classic interpretation that has no desire to support this version. My purpose of course is to read the comic with no preconceived notions and see how it stacks up. Phantom Lady has an interesting skill set with her black light gloves. They can manifest blackness in various forms - black fog, hard light objects and even living shadows. The greatest weapon is the shadow slide, which allows Jennifer to grab opponents from any shadow and drag them into the darkness, a place void of everything but sadness. The story begins with the death of Jennifer's parents at the hands of a mobster, Robert Bender, her journalist father was about to expose. Jennifer escaped as a child and is now doing the vigilante thing. She is after the successor to Robert Bender, his son Cyrus as a personal commitment to avenge her parents. With a fake name she has managed to infiltrate the Bender inner circle even if it means sleeping with the devil. But Doll Man is part of this story. In this case he is Jennifer's lifelong friend Dane who is a bit of a technical wizard and very much in love with Jennifer though she views their relationship more like friends with benefits. She leans on him for help and he feels like he is being used, a cause for some tension. All that will change when Cyrus and the boys figure out what is going on. Without revealing exactly how it happens this first issue is the origin story of Doll Man. I particularly liked the art on this book starting with a cool cover by the great team of Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts. The interior style is more realistic with great use of color and shadow as is needed for this particular character. While die-hard fans may not like this newer version of their hero I found the story to be entertaining and believable with some promise of lots more excitement in the next three issues. I would say for the price it is worth a try.

Issue Number: 1-Shot
Publisher: IDW
Creators: Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez
Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
Colors: Jay Fotos
Letters: Robbie Robbins
Price (USD): $3.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Horror
Mature - Comics on the Edge

I have been a big fan of the LOCKE & KEY series of comics since they started. While waiting for the final arc of the series to begin the creators have given us an out of continuity story with different characters that stands by itself. All you need to know to enjoy the story is told in a few paragraphs on the inside cover. The Locke mansion, Keyhouse, is over two hundred years old and has many keys that have different powers attached to them.  The Locke family has guarded its secrets for generations. This story is set back in the early 20th century apparently. Three ruthless men have just robbed a resort and the second part of their plan involves them robbing and hiding out at Keyhouse until their boat arrives. One of the three worked in the gardens years ago and knows they are rich and secluded. They very easily overpower the husband with no resistance from the wife, her two boys and her sister. When they decide to have some fun while waiting the Locke's are glad to comply if no one gets hurt. One takes the teenage sister to her room, another the mother to her room while the third watches the father and the boys. Unknown to the bad guys Keyhouse has many doors with special keys. Each one of them will soon find out what a big mistake they made coming here. The results are too good to spoil. All I can say is that it reads like a great horror story for those who are not familiar with the keys and their powers. For regular readers it is a fun romp to see the ingenious way the creators use the lore they have built on to create a stand-alone story. The second half of the book is purely for regular readers. Hill and Rodriguez provide detailed sketches that are plot plans for the entire mansion; every floor and every room is detailed and described. It helps put the bigger story into perspective though for the rest of the readers it is just unusual filler. This book is a must have for completists and a good story for fans of the horror with a twist genre.

Issue Number: 1-Shot
Publisher: Fubar Press
Cover Artist: Leonardo Pietro
Price (USD): $2.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Horror - black & white
Mature - Comics on the Edge

This is my first look at this company, though evidently not their first effort. To sum up this book and other comics in the series, they are zombie war comics. In the case of this summer special we have an anthology with five stories for those who need their zombie war comic fix. By the way FUBAR is another one of those old acronyms often used in the military meaning "F-ed Up Beyond All Recognition". Here is a brief rundown of the issue:

"Boots" by Chuck Dixon with art by Jeff McComsey and Steve Becker
Set in Normandy in 1944 it follows some of the paratroopers invading Europe. Four are separated from the main force and must make their way to the rest of the friendlies. Unfortunately they have landed in zombie territory and while a minefield thwarts the first attack they soon learn they are not home free. The ending appears to bring a ray of hope as the sky fills with parachutes nearby but looks can be deceiving.

"Chain of Command" by Jeff McClelland with art by Leonardo Pietro

While the term is a military one you will quickly realize that it is really about the food chain. It is set in a concentration camp and has no dialogue. It is very clever as we watch a fly get eaten by a frog who is then killed by a starving young boy and the killing goes on from there with the very last panel zoomed in on a fly once more on a dead body. Of course Zombies figure into the story as well.

"Fubar Combat Album: M4 Sherman Tank" by Tim Truman and Jim McMunn

This two-page brief extols the virtues of the M4 Sherman tank as a superior weapon against zombies with added praise for its smaller cousin the M1 Stuart. It ends with a silly snip about a fictional version of General Patton.

"To the Last Man" by Jeff McClelland with art by Lonny Chant and Jeff McComsey

This is a more serious story set in the Pacific in WWII and the protagonist is a Japanese soldier helping to defend an airstrip on a small island. He has been drilled like his comrades that they are superior fighters and will fight to the last man to do their duty. Facing overwhelming odds as the allies land it seems futile and he wonders if he will just be executed as the last survivor of his kind. Soon he will find another meaning to the phrase "last man."

"World War Woodstock", a FUBAR 3: AMERICAN HISTORY Z preview by Michael McDermott with art by Aluiso Cervelle Santos and letters by Julie Shelton.

This is a rather odd story from the perspective of a survivor of Woodstock. As you might guess that too was overrun by Zombies. The narrator is telling how it went in flashback and how a female US Senator now running for president against Ronald Reagan saved the day with a big help from Jimi Hendrix.

I am not really into these zombie books though I read them for diversion on occasion. The quality ranges from some decent stuff to the exceptional "Chain of Command". You have to take it for what it is and not too seriously most of the time. If you do that you can enjoy this comic.


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:
Some characters in THE NEGATION used the term, BOHICA! BOHICA is an acronym for what?

When things are about to go from bad to worse, there is an old expression, "bend over, here it comes again." The winner by the dice is Gregory Goding.

A special no prize for anyone who can tell me what WETSU stands for.
Here was your no prize question:

After the Pentagon, what is the largest office building in the United States?
It has so many tenants that it has its own Zip Code - the Empire State Building.

Who was the first MAD artist to draw DAREDEVIL?

Here is your no prize question:
Who was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

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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