Friday, November 24, 2017

Guest Review: Boy Maximortal #1

    Hey, yesterday was Thanksgiving in the U.S., and I'm thankful for you readers - especially the ones who send in Guest Reviews!

   Here's one now from one my friends who prefers to remain Anonymous. Here's his review of 

Boy Maximortal #1.


   While I'm certain it's common practice for most of us who collect things, there are some creators whose work I always purchase whenever possible. I'm not saying that I always like or even appreciate what they do, but I want to know what they're doing. 

   Simply put, these creators that I follow religiously did work in the past that I found groundbreaking and thought provoking, and I hope they'll do it again someday.

   Musicians like Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails or Alice in Chains. Filmmakers like David Fincher and M. Night Shyamalan. And comic creators like Jonathan Hickman, Mike Mignola and the creator of the book that I'm reviewing today, Rick Veitch.

   Veitch has long been one of my favorite comic book creators. He's an odd mix of reverence for those creators and properties of the past while also being more than willing to slit traditional characters wide open and show us their ugly insides. 

   His early DC work, the amazing and all-too-familiar 1963 run at Image, and his Shadow homage, Greyshirt (also for Image) are just a few examples of his work that I love and appreciate. But it's his magnum opus, what's called his "King Hell Heroica" series that was started with 1991's Bratpack, that really sets him apart for me. 

   Which bring me to this review that returns us to the King Hell Heroica universe, the recently released Boy Maximortal #1, which Veitch is publishing without traditional distribution through Diamond and is available through Amazon. 

    Standing on the shoulders of Bratpack, the previous Maximortal series and other related titles, Veitch takes us to a familiar world that explores the original archetypes of superheroes but stretches our understanding of the conventional superhero into a worse-than-Watchmen world that pulls no punches. 

   More interestingly, Veitch uses the character of his Superman-esque True Man(tm) to explore the horrible mistreatment of the Man of Steel's creators at the hands of slimy editors and insidious comic companies. 

   While DC comics and its predecessor takes their well-earned lumps in Maximortal, the new Boy Maximortal book focuses on a new enemy that seems all too familiar with fancy adjectives and the familiar name, "Stanley. " (Get it?) 

   Veitch's story not only reopens this universe, but also gives us a look inside the mind of comic artist "King" and the still fresh mental wounds from his military service in WW2. Like the majority of Veitch's work, this book is not for the timid, but it does take the reader on a compelling ride that you won't find anywhere else.

   Veitch's reverence for the properties and creators of the past is not only found in his writing, but also in his art. His classic style gives his work a nostalgic feel, at least until you read the word balloons or grasp the nature of the story.

   Unlike some reviews of other books, I would not suggest that you start with Boy Maximortal #1 if you have not read the rest of the King Hell Heroica thus far. It is well worth your time and treasure to go back to Bratpack and read everything that leads up to this book. 

   As Veitch shifts his critical eye from DC to Marvel, you will find yourself in an amazing superhero story that works on so many levels. It's great to see this story continue and I hope Veitch continues to add to this rich universe.

Grade: A+


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Doomsday Clock #1 (of 12)

   It's funny that I didn't have a (much of) a problem with the Before Watchmen series DC created without the input of original writer Alan Moore, but I feel a bit squishy about Doomsday Clock, which brings those characters (or that alternate reality - Earth-W?) into direct contact with the mainstream DC Universe.

   The original series works so well as a standalone book, I can't help but wonder / worry what effect this series will have.

   This first issue is actually a direct followup to the original series, as it checks in with the present state of affairs on that world following the massive events at the end of the original series.

   It also features the return of a character you wouldn't expect to see again, since he was killed in spectacular (and definitive) fashion by the godlike Dr. Manhattan.

   You'll only find a few pages of DC content as the focus is on machinations in the Watchmen-verse.

   The writing by Geoff Johns evokes the classic Moore series, though it remains to be seen if it can match the complexity of the original work.

   The art by Gary Frank, with colors by Brad Anderson, is impressive as always, evoking a grim reality and done in the style of Dave Gibbons' original art, mostly imitating the nine panels to a page format.

   So why am I squishy about this? Well, it seems wrong to do a sequel without the involvement (or agreement) of the original creators. I know DC has every legal right to do this, but I'm not so clear on the moral rights.

   The Before Watchman prequel was tolerable because it was placed in the original world and didn't change anything about the work of the creators. But this series is already introducing new characters, making changes (possibly drastic ones) to existing characters, and potentially changing everything about Watchmen. By making this just another alternant reality Earth to be visited on a whim, it somehow diminishes the concept.

   We'll see how it plays out - and yes, despite my reservations, I'll be reading along - but I'm not convinced that this is a good idea.

Grade: B+


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

New Comics Day

   A slim holiday week for me! (Happy Thnksgiving, everyone)! 

   Here's what I picked up today:

- ASTRO CITY #49 - The story of Resistor!

- DOOM PATROL #9 - Old enemies return!

- DOOMSDAY CLOCK #1 (OF 12) - The DC Universe collides
 with Watchmen!

- FLASH #35 - Can the damage to his family be repaired?

- INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #594 - The search for Tony Stark continues!

- KAMANDI CHALLENGE #11 (OF 12) - Art by Walt Simonson!

     And I received these review copies:

- DOCTOR WHO 10TH YEAR THREE #11 - Can Gabby be saved?

- DOLLFACE #11 - Searching out mystic bloodlines.

- DR RADAR #1 - Investigating deaths in 1920 Paris!

- MIRACULOUS #16 SIMON SAYS - A child's game and a deadly threat!

- OVERTAKEN #4 (OF 5) - Under assault!

- SANTERIA THE GODDESS KISS #5 (OF 5) - A tale spanning centuries!

- THE BEAUTIFUL DEATH #3 (OF 5) - Another survivor?

- TORCHWOOD THE CULLING #2 (OF 4) - Captain Jack's worst nightmare!

- WARHAMMER 40000 DAWN OF WAR #4 (OF 4) - The war continues!

- X-O MANOWAR #9 - Hail to the emperor!

- ZOMBIE TRAMP ONGOING #41 - Can a zombie die?

     And that's it!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Doctor Who 12th Doctor: Year Three #9

   The bad news is, we're rapidly approaching the Doctor Who Christmas Special, which sadly spells the end of Peter Capaldi's run as the 12th Doctor.

   The good news is, it looks like it's going to be a lot of fun, as it reunites him with the wonderful Bill, and it introduces a new and different Doctor!

   The bad news is, it looks like Nardole's run on the series is over, and Bill may also be done.

    The good news is, their adventures continue in the Titan Comics series, and the latest issue is a solid addition to the run.

   (OK, it's just good news for the rest of this review.)

   This "done in one" issue is mostly lighthearted as the trio go on a shopping trip - but when you're a Time Lord looking for special equipment, you can't just drop by Home Depot.

   So it's off to the Ubermarket, and some fun bits scattered among the usual running for your life.

   Nothing too serious or deep - it's just a fun story for fans of all ages.

   Like I said, Good News!

Grade: B+


Monday, November 20, 2017

Ninja-K #1

   I hate it when I find out I've been mispronouncing a comic book character's name.

   For example, I've been saying the name of Hela, the Asgardian / Marvel goddess of death, "He-lah." But in the Thor: Ragnarok movie, she was called "Hay-la."

   So now Ninjak is back in a new series, and I find that it's not "Nin-jack" - it's "Ninja-kay." Gah.

   All that should be cleared up a bit in this issue, which recaps the history of the secret program that led to the creation of the ultimate agent, Ninja-K.

   (And if you're suspecting that it all starts with someone named Ninja-A, then you're one sharp cookie.)

   We also see a new threat appear - one that may be unstoppable - and its ultimate target is Ninja-K!

   The story by Christos Gage is powerful and sheds light on some previously-hidden history (at least it was hidden to me).

   The art is by Tomas Giorello, a terrific and largely unsung artist who did amazing work on the King Conan series from Dark Horse. Here he breathes vivid life into a history lesson that's anything but dry, and throws in lots of action and heart!

   The series is off to a strong start, and this is a perfect jumping-on point for Ninja-K! Best of all, you'll avoid the shame of saying his name wrong (like some guys I could name)!

Grade: A-


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini #1

   If you would be a success in comics, my child, a great first step is getting a rave review / quote from a legend like Neil Gaiman, whose says: "I was seduced by Cynthia Von Buhler's artwork. She is a wonder."

   See, that would get me to pick up a comic.

   The topic doesn't hurt, either. So meet Mindy Woolcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini.

   She's a unique force in her time - an intelligent, ambitious woman who's driven to succeed in a business that doesn't want her - namely, her father's detective agency.

   Unfortunately, he doesn't agree and only allows her to work as his secretary - but when he's away, she there to meet a famous client: Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes and a one-time friend of Harry Houdini.

   He wants to hire a detective to investigate Houdini - and Mindy jumps at the chance, although it will take her to some seedy places.

   The story and art are by Von Buhler, and it's compelling stuff. The art is very expressive and down to Earth, to the point of being almost grimy.

   It's an unique series aimed at mature readers, and well worth tracking down.

Grade: A-


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Justice League - Movie Review

   So finally, after a long wait, the Justice League has arrived on the big screen.

   The good news is: I didn't hate it.

   The bad news is: it has problems. 

   The movie is all about putting the band together, following up on story threads laid out in the execrable Batman v Superman movie and the mostly-delightful Wonder Woman movie.

   So we find Batman (played by Ben Affleck), who's been fighting crime in Gotham for 20 years and is showing his age. He discovers the threat of an alien invasion, and when Diana (the luminous Gal Gadot) checks in with the same warning, they go in search of allies - namely, Aquaman (played with Surfer Dude / Point Break brio by Jason Momoa), the Flash (played with nervous energy and humor by Ezra Miller), and the mysterious Cyborg (played with a brooding intensity by Ray Fisher).

   The loss of Superman (Henry Cavill) at the end of BvS has left the Earth vulnerable, and the CGI monster known as Steppenwolf (the voice of Claran Hinds) brings an army of Parademons to conquer the planet - and considering what happened the first time he attacked the planet (depicted in a terrific flashback battle sequence), it looks bad for our side.

   So you can guess where it all goes, with the heroes trying to stop Steppenwofl before he can find the elements he needs to finish his plans.

   In a lot of ways this movie is a delight. As a longtime fan, it's wonderful to see these heroes working together - but the interactions are a bit clumsy, and the attempt at humor often fall flat. But at least there is some humor in there and a general feeling that the heroes are trying to help people. They even go out of their way to rescue innocent civilians (which would have been unheard of in Man of Steel or BvS).

   But the story just seems to stutter along, with no sense of urgency. When danger threatens the world, the heroes decide to... rest up for the evening, and then get down to the job at hand. (Oh, and while I'm throwing out problems, please: cut out the casual profanity - it's not needed; eliminate the random brutal deaths; and replace the Flash's costume - it just doesn't work, and the running effect needs tweaking. The super-speed stuff is great, but when they show him running it. looks. terrible.)

   Look, this is definitely the best of the "new" DC films (which include Suicide Squad, Man of Steel and BvS). They still have some work to do to get on the level of Marvel's films, but they're getting closer. They have a great cast and a really strong supporting cast, including Alfred (the wry Jeremy Irons), Lois Lane (the lovely but tough Amy Adams) and Commissioner Gordon (the amazing J.K. Simmons). 

   They have a solid team together (with room for more), and they have a much better tone and mix of personalities to work with.

   They just need a better opponent - and some better writing (and consistency) through the whole movie. 

   (Oh, and I was very happy to see Gardner Fox credited as the creator of the Justice League (of America) - but why no credit for Mike Sekowsky, who drew the book for its first eight (or so) years? Or Julius Schwartz, the editor who probably dreamed up the concept?)

Grade: B