Sunday, April 20, 2014

Moonrise

I peered out the back window and found the world had filled with a thick, creepy fog. The park behind my house had turned into the misty moors of the Midwest. I had awoken to a world filled with prowling werewolves and other monstrous creatures. Nothing else could explain the ever-expanding, concealing cloud outside the window. I already missed the romantic comedy that was my life a mere eight hours before.

I looked around for my wife, Penny, worried she had already disappeared with the changing setting. Each alteration moved at its own speed; rarely was it ever slow enough for me to say goodbye. I thankfully found her downstairs making breakfast.

I ran to her and hugged her tightly. She let out a confused laugh and asked what was wrong. I quickly told her my worries: that werewolves now roamed the moors, hunting for their next victim. She smiled at me, and patted my head gently.

“Oh sweetie, this town may have been built upon a swamp, but it lacks the bogs to be classified as a moor. You're over thinking things.”

With her reassurance and a quick kiss I was on my way to the train for work. Since the station was on the other side of the park my daily commute always began with a walk. Halfway through my journey I heard a soft noise that could have been a car starting up, or the train leaving the station without me. It was at that moment I realized something: while my lovely fiancé, did reassure me, she never once denied the possible existence of werewolves. With a great feeling of dread I rushed to the train station, not in fear of a fictional monster, but in a heightened sense of urgency to make it to work on time. Or, at least, that is what I told myself.

The mists parted to reveal the train station, with two large lantern-style lights on either side. Were those always there? I looked around for a sign of life and was met only with concealing fog. The sound I had heard earlier must have been the train leaving without me.

The shape of a man appeared feet away from me; I saw his fedora and trench coat long before I saw his face. Desperate for reassurance, I quickly blurted something out.

“Good morning sir, this fog sure is crazy, isn't it? ...Sir?”

The man fell forward and grabbed my shoulders, a dire look on his face as he muttered something that sounded like “Fade Halcyon” and dropped to the ground. This is when I saw the blood: he had been shot. But what did “Fade Halcyon” mean? Was it some dubstep band? And, if so, aren't those the worst final words ever?

It took a few minutes after I called the ambulance to realize his last words were really "Jade Falcon." It helped that I found his notepad filled with details about a case he was working on, locating the Jade Falcon. On the last page was a phone number with the initials “E L” and a kiss left by a pair of red-stained lips.

I wasn't in a world of horrific werewolves; I was in a noir. I knew what I had to do: find the killer, and solve the mystery of the Jade Falcon.

I discovered I was a natural detective; once justice was done, and the Falcon returned to its rightful owner, I struck up an acquaintance with the mysterious “E L” -- Elaine Lambroe, the most popular singer at a local speakeasy called the Lounge. I knew Elaine was the wrong kind of dame the second I laid eyes on her. She had me on her hook the second I heard her sing in that “deep come hither” voice I couldn't resist.

My Girl Friday, Penny, quit after stumbling upon Elaine and I in a compromising position. Even though she had set it up by “accidentally” falling onto my lap, I couldn’t say no to Elaine. I was under her spell.

That is how I ended up on a case to locate a painting. Entitled “Moonrise,” it had been stolen from some local mob boss who owned the Lounge and wouldn't let Elaine out of her contract unless I retrieved the art. I was a sap, but at least I was a lucky one: it only took four bribes, three beatings, and two bottles of bourbon to discover the location of the painting.

That night I made my way to an old warehouse on the waterfront and slowly crept inside. I hoped the goons who stole the painting were stupid enough to leave it unguarded while they went out to enjoy the night's festivities. With a little bit of digging and more dumb luck I stumbled upon the painting in a large crate. I pulled out the painting and wrapped it inside a sheet and started to make my getaway. When I turned I saw the flimflammers that started this whole mess. There were three of them and one of them had Elaine by the arm.

“Easy there,” I said in a voice I hoped sounded confident, “we can make a deal, give me the girl and you get the painting. No one needs to get hurt.” They told me to put the painting down slowly and we could talk. I complied and pulled out my revolver as I stood back up and aimed it at the main schmoe's head. They backpedaled quickly but kept Elaine in their grip. Just as I felt like I was in charge, I heard a click behind me and felt the cold steel on my neck. It was Elaine's boss, the painting heist was a scam to get rid of me, and like a schmuck I had fallen for it.

Elaine and I were escorted towards the car, we were both in for the big sleep, we knew too much. I apologized for not doing more to protect her. She smiled at me, one of those deadly and heartwarming smiles she had perfected.

“Don't worry about it Mac,” she said in the sweetest voice possible, “you did everything you could, and this kitten isn't without a claw or two.”

She leaned over and kissed me deeply. I regretted the fact my hands were tied. I couldn't grab her, couldn't hold her close. She slowly parted from me and gave me a wink. She turned around and leaped at the closest lug. By the time she landed on the poor schmoe she had turned into an eight foot furry killing machine. After she had finished off the entire goon squad and her former boss she let out a piercing howl at the moon above.

When Elaine calmed down, I offered her my coat and with the painting in hand we scrammed.

Her head lay on my shoulder as I drove us out of town, she was so peaceful and calm, nothing like the heart stealing vixen I first met or the heart ripping monster she was an hour before. I knew we would be safe together; we just had to make sure no matter what setting we fell into next, we remained close. Who knew werewolves were able to jump genres too?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Review of the Silence of Our Friends

Silence of Our Friends is a semi-autobiographical story set in 1968 Texas that focuses on two families, one African American and the other Caucasian. The book is a series of vignette like chapters that move seamlessly not only from one family to the next but also between the different family members.

The book is set up in short vignette like chapters although there is never a heading or page telling you the chapter is over, instead you turn the page and see a different character as the focus. It works so seamlessly here that I was rarely taken out of the story when there was a change. The change over seemed natural, like when listening to a great concept album where each song helps build an overall experience. Because it is based on real events and keeps that ascetic, some events aren't seen, instead we see the after effects of them. This limited view actually helps the realistic portrayal of events and grounds the book soundly.

But with the limited view still comes a larger scope. The book starts with two children (Mark and Shell) playing soldier outside, yet once they go inside they along with their mother watch as a Viet Kong soldier is shown being shot on the news. While the shooting is mentioned a few times it isn't a major event, it just shows the wider world as it was at the time. Moments like this continue throughout the graphic novel and I could have read a lot more pages and scenes like this without any need of a central plot. The story also never stops to examine or focus on things like the shooting, we the reader have to see the impact and importance of such things. The creators treat the readers as intelligent people who know enough of their history to see how each event is important to not only the characters but to the nation itself.

Even with one of the little girls (Julie) being blind is never harped upon. She is blind and is learning how to write in braille, that is all that is ever really said on the issue. A few other times it comes up, but much like the racial issues it comes across as just a natural part of the story., it also leads to a scene that perfectly encapsulates the story. The two fathers, Jack and Larry have a family get together where Larry brings his wife and kids over, while the adults have an awkward conversation inside, the kids have their own meeting. It is still awkward but once Julie asks to "see" the other little girl, CC with her fingers it becomes about two races trying to understand one another as they take turns touching each other's hair which is such a foreign concept to the other side. The kids never stop to take notice of this special moment and instead leap into playing kick the can, having bonded completely.

Nate Powell's art is what makes the whole graphic novel work. The writers frequently allow Powell to take over the story telling with little to no words for many pages just allowing the artwork to breath and tell the story. His characters are bright and full of expression that could allow most of the story to be told without a single word being written. Since Powell also did all the lettering by hand it never seems to impede or take over the artwork. It also leads to so impressive use of text during scenes with music playing or multiple people speaking together either in church or in protest.

The climax of the book involves a riot at a protest where a cop is shot dead and the resulting trial. The violence and confusion are perfectly captured by the art forcing the reader to feel the same chaotic and visceral feeling of trying to seek safety but being unable to find it is present in the few pages that detail the event. It isn't dragged out but is instead wonderfully done in simple two page spreads. By the time you as the reader can get your bearing it is over, just like in real life.

Sadly the resulting trial is the one place that took me out of the story. It suddenly turned from a magnificent story of two families dealing with all the hatred and troubles in 1968 to something that is closer to a typical Hollywood treatment. The story and characters are still compelling, but it felt forced and fake. Reading the Author's Note it is easy to see why this portion of the book is so different, Mark Long admits that the trial was based on real events but the autobiographical elements are less involved, I really doubt that Mark or any of his family or even Larry Thomas had as an important part to play as he does in the book. Being based on events instead of being taken from personal perspective takes away from this part of the book. Everything else feels so true to life, authentic and endearing, this feels close but just not right.

Even with the above issue, the Silence of Our Friends is a great piece of work. The characters quickly enamor you, the artwork portrays each character perfectly and individual sounds a like when speaking either, they are unique and interesting. The plot is sparse but so well done, it captures the mood of the time without requiring a driving plot to force it down certain roads. This is a great book that captures a unique time in America's history without focusing on any of the major players in the Civil Rights movement but instead on the normal people who were just as involved and impacted by it all.

The Silence of Our Friends is written by Mark Long Jim Demonakos with art by Nate Powell and is published by First Second and will be available on January 17th in book stores and the 18th in comic books stores. An extended preview of the graphic novel can be found on the Publishers Weekly website here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Comic Book Reviews 1/11/12

Batman and Robin #5 - I haven't been paying much attention to this book, Batman, Detective, and Nightwing have been my Bat universe books since the relaunch but after this issue I think this may get added to that list. The son of Bruce Wayne, (who is also the Robin in this book) Damian Wayne has always been a bit let us say difficult. He was raised by his mother who is in charge of an international group of assassins and is the grand son of one of the most brilliant villains in the world Ra's Al Ghul, so to say he is egotistical, malicious, and over confident is an understatement. He has literally been bred and raised to inherit the world. This issue sees Damian starting training with a new villain who is a ruthless killer and has been trained as such since he was a child. This man also has ties to Bruce Wayne which we discover in a very long flashback narrated by Bruce. While the reverse dynamic of parents to child of the villain is interesting, as is Bruce's first meeting with him and his father it does go on a bit too long. Damian's first night of proving himself to his new mentor as well as Bruce's frantic search for his son are the meat of the story for me and what I want to see more of. Will the newest Robin go down the path of evil? Will Batman find them in time? Can father and son ever have a real bond with each other when they are still new in each other's lives and well they are Batman and Robin? Finally can Batman take down this new threat? Sure he knows the guy but he is still pretty bad ass and it has been years since they last met... I will be there next month to see if any of these questions are answered, that is for sure. 4/5

Frankenstein Agent of SHADE #5 - This is part two of a crossover with OMAC #5 that came out last week but thankfully you don't have to read that issue to understand this one. We start off with the end of another adventure of Frankenstein's where he is fighting off cannibalistic dwarfs in Tibet. This is apparently part of his vacation which is then interrupted by getting assigned to take down OMAC. We then get the big monster match up from OMAC last week as here but from the point of view of Frankenstein and the other agents of SHADE. The duel sided battle is again a lot of fun and we do get a few parts of the fight we didn't get before, like the involvement of Ray Palmer. I like that even though the middle chunk of the story is the same plot wise (and in some points in dialogue) as OMAC, it is told in such a way it doesn't exactly feel the same. After the monsters battle we get a great character moment between Frankenstein and the creature from Black Lagoon esque doctor. While this issue loses a bit after reading OMAC last week, it completely restores my faith in this series after a shaky first arc. If you are interested in OMAC or Frankenstein I would say this was the better issue to introduce them both while OMAC #5 had the better fight sequence. 4.5/5

Incredible Hulk #4 - Let's get to the meat of this issue, Doctor Bruce Banner goes on a psycho mad scientist rant in this issue, and that alone would make me love this issue. But there was more to this issue then that. The Hulk and his new friends finally make it to Bruce Banner's island of big hulkish creatures and we get some great Hulk fighting scenes because of it. We also get the confrontation between Hulk and Bruce Banner which is where Banner's mad scientist rant happens. The two talking is the heart of the issue and really who hasn't wanted to see the two talk? We still haven't gotten the how and why the two are seperate from one another but that's what next issue is for! Beautiful art, great action, and compelling dialogue make for a great issue of Hulk. 5/5

Scarlet Spider #1- Hey kids, remember the clone saga? The story where we find out our favorite neighborhood web crawler may actually be a clone of the real Peter Parker which was later retconned that OUR Spider-Man was the real one alllllllll along? Yeah, so do I, and I mostly wish I hadn't. But this being comics it has returned to being a nostalgic idea and must be brought back, so we make our way to Scarlet Spider, the identity the clone of Peter Parker, Ben Reiley took up for a while. This time the main character is Kaine, ANOTHER clone of Peter Parker, the first one in fact who was a villain/anti-hero involved in the clone saga who died during it, but came back during the last Spider-Man crossover, Spider Island where random people of New York gained the powers of Spider-Man. Phew that was a lot to try and explain. Which is all part of this comic, we get every detail of past stories and continuity, filling in plot holes as we go and everything, which slows down this book so much. But we also get to meet Kaine as he is now, a man wanting to escape America and not be stuck with the responsibilities of being a super hero. He use to be an assassin, a villain, but he still has all of the memories of a young Spider-Man, part of him must fight for the innocent. So these two sides interact in great ways. Like the opening where he takes down an apparent drug or arms deal just for the money they were using. When he discovers it was actually human trafficking and there is a sole survivor we see the heroic side of him appear. Later he saves an old lady who is about to be hit by a car then yells at her for being oblivious of the vehicle in the first place! These are the good parts of the issue, they fulfill the tag line of the book, "all the power, none of the responsibility" and if the book spends a year or so with such conflicts and interactions we can have a great book on our hands. Assuming we are done with the pages and pages of boring back story regurgitation, at least Batman and Robin had the decency to give us new material to force feed us, this is crap that came out in the 90's! And it really detracts from a book that holds some promise too, maybe #2 will be back story free, who knows. 2.5/5

X-Factor #230 - A lot has happened in this book as many people were likely paying attention to the other X books. Multiple Man is now dead, Strong Guy has no soul, and Layla can bring back the dead! The only catch? When they do they have no soul. This issue is all fall out and characters trying to figure out what to do next. Do they bring Multiple Man back? He has been frozen, so there is time to decide. Is Strong Guy evil? Should they be apart from him? What are the moral implications of all of this? Who will lead X-Factor now? Also, why is Wolverine here? All of these questions and more are discussed by the large cast and it makes for perfect character moments that are true to each one and allows them all to have a unique voice. Longshot doesn't sound like Shatterstar, and neither of them sound like Sireyn or Monet, etc etc. That is impressive from a book with a cast of 9 plus characters, plus Wolverine who is in the book without taking over. This book is all talk and little action but is never boring. So if you love X books but haven't given X-Factor a chance you should fix that and try it out as this sets up the new status quo and fills you in on everything without force feeding it. 5/5

Friday, January 6, 2012

Reviewing New Comics 1/04/12


Detective Comics #5 – This was a pretty interesting comic, while the cover promises Penguin and Batman fighting for Gotham, Penguin only shows up in the last few pages so I am guessing it is the story arc theme, but the really cool stuff is developments from the big shocker of the first issue. People are now protesting in Gotham against Batman while dressed up like clowns in honor of the Joker. This idea is quite brilliant and can lead to a lot of fun in the future well beyond the few pages we see here. The main plot of the issue is Batman trying to capture a thug who kills other men Batman was trying to take out for a drug deal. The thug also has a clown mask on so when he escapes through the Joker protest it works perfectly. I am mostly excited that there is a deeper mystery going here since it is called Detective Comics. This is the first issue of Detective where things seem to work smoothly for me, no giant plot holes, no random wtf moments thrown in just because, it is a straight forward tale with some interesting ideas that have been properly developed from past events. The back up story (yes there is a back up) is pretty good too, although I little bit too long I wanted more of the first story, who the hell would be protesting FOR the Joker? Who was that thug? What does Penguin have to do with all of this if anything? The back up is well written and the art for my tastes is better then the main story, we meet a new character with ties to older characters and a great cameo which helps make the comic feel connected to other DC book but really wanting more of the main story detracted me from caring as much about it. Ah well, they made me care about this book for the first time since it launched so that is saying a lot. 4/5

Ferals #1 – I love werewolf stories, growing up werewolves were my favorite monsters, most likely because I had a thing for wolves and they were just extensions of that. So I was looking forward to the first issue of this book about werewolves from Avatar, what I got did not live up to my expectations. It starts off promising enough, we are at an obvious werewolf attack (obvious because there is blood everywhere and it is a story about werewolves) and meet the main character a small town police officer who is drinking buddies with the victim, also around is the victims ex-wife, and the city coroner. After some set up of characters, the victim was a huge ass who drank too much but well the cop liked him we get a page showing the rest of the victim and jump to the cop drinking his sorrows away. Still so far, so good, nothing ground breaking but things could get moving. Sadly this is where we start getting one cliché after another. First, the cop hooks up with mysterious blond woman in the bathroom (because that is what you do), the woman is never given any character but there are hints she will be important later (likely a werewolf). Then the cop while very drunk goes to his dead friend's ex's house, apparently they have been sleeping together for a long while (because that is how these things are in such stories) this time we at least skip the gratuitous sex scene and move to the next day where like clock work a werewolf appears and people die and the cop gets attacked BUT not killed. Now none of that is really bad per se, but I have seen that story so many times I can't count, what doesn't help is that none of the characters are sympathetic or even interesting, they are just drab, boring walking talking clichés. The art work is pretty good, but the coloring has that drab slightly toned down look a lot of Avatar books have which I think is due to their paper stock. There isn't much else to say, thus far it is entirely skippable, which is a shame, I could use a good werewolf story. 2/5

Goon #37 - This issue has as much inspiration from America's history dealing with unions and the tragedies involved as worker rights were created as it does pulp adventure and horror stories. The main plot follows the events of what happens when a rich and corrupt owner of a fabric factory allows hundreds of women to burn to death in a fire and covers it up because he is too cheap to pay for the small things it would take to give them fire exits. The other focus is an old woman who is forced to work at the factory that catches fire after her husband and son are killed in a mining accident. The story is very tragic and sadly too accurate of the history of this country. This is a great story with wonderful art that fits the setting and story perfectly while seamlessly moving with each flavor the plot transitions through. It starts off as a story of a hard off old woman moves to a corrupt business man abusing the system followed by inevitable tragedy and ends with the people fighting for their rights as suddenly giant monsters get involved because the title character becomes a force for the union. To top it all off, the ending so perfectly ties together all the threads and themes of the book it illustrates how all of the divergent elements work in this story. And that isn't the true end of the book, there is still an essay about early unions and worker rights at the end with accompanying pictures from the time that bring back the impact of the heart of this story. I have to admit I haven't read much Goon, but if more issues are like this I need to rectify that immediately as should you. 5/5

OMAC #5 - In this issue the government organization known as Checkmate seeks outside help to stop the sci-fi created monster OMAC from the most famous sci-fi monster of them all, Frankenstein. What follows is a great two front battle, the feature of which is OMAC and Frankenstein just destroying each other for many pages in the wonderful bright Kirbyesque art style. The other big battle is between the power behind OMAC, Brother Eye and Frankenstein's organization SHADE trying to hack into each other's systems. This may sound boring on paper but the characters involved are so dynamic it remains very interesting. This is a great single issue that not only moves the story forward (and catches anyone up if it is their first issue) but also is a solid cross over making all characters involved looking strong and interesting. 4.5/5


Red Lanterns #5 - This is an issue of building up characters, it is a direct continuation from the last issue that shows the history of three Red Lanterns that are slowly gaining their mental faculties and seeing through the rage. What is interesting (besides the diverse and interesting back stories) is the moral implications and questions the characters discuss as they regain their minds. What is their purpose as a red lantern? Are they all victims? If some of them were evil and malicous before gaining the ring does that take away from being a moral force? This talk could have lasted longer and still been worth reading. Even with these talks there is still action, Atrocious and Bleez still have an interesting conflict, and there is also the search for the dead Guardian Krona. A lot more is going on in this book then I ever expected. Finally we get a conclusion to the story on Earth, finding out who gets the ring which is very well done. I'm amazed at how much of the cast I like and want to see more of, this issue really helped solidify these feelings. 4.5/5

Sweet Tooth #29 - After the last story arc that went well back in time hundreds of years we return to the main cast with a month having passed since we last saw Gus and Jepperd, and boy have there been some changes. Many of which I don't feel I should spoil but the important bits of the story are this, Jepperd has been hunting and surviving outside the dam since he was exiled and waiting for Gus and Dr. Singh to find him so they can get back to traveling to Alaska. Once the group meets they decide to steal from the evil Haggarty's men to get a vehicle to make the trip easier. We also get to see the very expansive cast of other animal man hybrids and the people taking care of them find out several important revelations. You know not spoiling things is a bit hard when so much of this story is big revelations. The important part is this, Lemire's plot, art, and story telling are exquisite here. Things are paced in such a perfect way that every panel accomplishes something while also taking time to show off beautiful landscapes and use multiple panels to just let things breath. In this issue as Jepperd stalks towards Haggarty's base we get large panels of the sun setting as he moves, as well as a perfectly paced two pages of him coming across a bird hybrid. The discovery of the hybrid could have been done in two panels but the way it is done we get to experience the discovery of the hybrid as well, it sneaks up on us and Jep as it sits there motionless, once our shared surprise goes away the tension builds, is it friendly, will it alarm the base? This is what makes the series so great, little moments like that, which build the story and show the depths of character. 29 is a new story arc and thankfully the first two pages helps summarize the basis of the story which helps make this a great jumping on point in addition to the start of a new arc for long time readers. 5/5

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reviewing New Comics 12/28/11

American Vampire #22 - What does a vampire hunter in the 1950s look like? If you said leather glad teenage greaser than you are correct? In this issue we meet Travis Kidd who is part vampire hunter and all around cool rockabilly punk that easily wins you over and escapes the cliche both his appearance and the first few pages of the comic paint him in quickly. He is smart, crafty, and well still quite a punk, but it is so well done I can't fault it. I haven't read much of this series as I'm a bit tired of the umpteenth upswing in vampires in pop culture, but after reading this issue, I am wanting to see more of it. This story takes place in the 50's and seems to have a focus on a single and new character, feels like a perfect jumping on point to me, and for you as well, after the last panel you will be craving the next page like some poorly crafted and horrible joke I can make about vampires and blood. 5/5

Aquaman #4 - Aquaman and Mera fight giant sea monsters deep in the sea, and it is awesome. This issue is fast paced and the art is both gorgeous and perfectly tuned to make you feel like you are under water, also giant sea monsters! Plus we get a new member of the Aqua family who is a bit furrier then you would imagine. What else is there to say? You want to see a super hero fight monsters and be impressive while doing it then read this book! Now if we can drop this whole meta thing where random people in the comic think Aquaman is lame like he is commonly seen in the real world. Sorry if any of us saw someone who could breath water, throw around giant boulders, and command fish we would not make jokes about them to their faces. 5/5

Captain America #5 AND #6 - For whatever reason Marvel is releasing two issues of Captain America this week, adding to that the release of a new Captain America and Bucky and it is definitely Cap's week to end the year. These two books end one story line and then begin another. #5 feels a bit weird and anti-climatic, mostly because I don't know how we got here and just see the resolution, while #6 is building along nicely to a fun and interesting plot as it begins the "Powerless" arc. But both books do work together very well, #5 leads into 6 so eloquently in both plot and character they could easily have been a single, although oddly paced single issue. While 5 wraps up Captain America's fight with Codename Bravo which does seem like it will have deeper ramifications, and has a strong emotional finish for some supporting characters. Issue 6 shows off those ramifications and goes about illustrating how Cap is dealing with the previous story and what is next for him, the cast, and the villains as well. I would say 6 is the stronger of the two, but 5 has more emotion. We will give it a combined score this week, since Marvel had to finish the year with so many issues of Captain America out, which really I won't complain about one bit. 4/5


Scrambled Circuits #3 - This is a mini comic about a robot named Primus who is a stand in for the creator of the book. Primus deals with a variety of things from moving to the desert after the passing of a loved one to feeling awkward to trying to draw the best hand turkey, and each one is told with an honesty I heavily envy. Every story in this comic is compelling and well thought out, some end on a joke, others serious, but each one has a meaning that seems to connect them and as I said before, an honesty to them. The art compliments this perfectly, it is far from an idealized comic style when considering main stream work, but each panel seems to so effortlessly capture the moment and gives a feeling of immersion to the reader it makes me wonder why more books don't work look like this. There is a bit of a plot line going on in this book that seemed to lack in the last issue, one of possible romance that I wish was expanded upon, but just like the life it was based on, sometimes these things take time to properly reveal themselves and only in works of fiction do they all time out perfectly to make for the expected arcs. I highly recommend giving this book a shot, or any of his others, which can all be found here. 5/5

Monday, December 19, 2011

New comics 12/14/11

Batman the Brave and the Bold #14 - A nice heartfelt tale featuring Batman teaming up with the lesser known Ragman who is feeling the poor neighborhood he protects does not get the attention it deserves. What follows is a simple but well written story of crime attacking a small down on its luck neighborhood, a super hero regaining his faith (Ragman), and a quick history in Hanukkah all with Batman! It felt like a lost episode of the sadly cancelled tv show, which suits me fine. 4/5

Demon Knights #4 - We interrupt the invasion of the evil horde army for a long vision quest and mini origin of the Shining Knight, female knight who witnessed firsthand the fall of Camelot. This makes for the best issue of the book so far and makes me wish Cornell would just focus on one character (like the Shining Knight) instead of trying to spread the love around so much and make all of these interesting characters seem less than they need to be. All the characters have their own voices and could make an interesting lead of a book but trying to give everyone screen time is taking away from showing why each character is important and cool. Plot wise little happens in this issue though we get a ton of back story on Shining Knight, Camelot, Merlin, and the Holy Grail which makes up for any plots lacking. The dual reveal of who is going after and has gone after the grail is also well done, that along with the last page makes me want to see what happens next now, always a good sign. 4.5/5

Pigs #4 - Torturing someone for information has become a story telling fall back in the last decade or so, yet in this issue it is used as a back drop to show off characters and makes you quickly care about those involved (excluding the obviously corrupt and sick man who is being tortured). The focus of the issue is Travis a member of a mercenary group (I think) and why he doesn't want to kill and some of his childhood. It makes you connect with him quickly and the others as they interact with him. After all the history is given and the interrogation is over we move to another forceful questioning involving other characters and a reveal that may change everything. Now I have never read this series before this, but with a single issue I feel I have a good grasp on the characters, a general series premise, and I am invested in both what happens next and how it impacts the characters. Otherwise known as, exactly what a single comic should do. 5/5

The Ray #1 - Now this was fun! The preview they ran for this comic do it no justice. Want an interesting reaction to gaining super powers? Want an Asian super hero who isn't a stereotype? Want Spider-Man level quips and alter ego sub plots that are just as interesting as the super hero bits? You can find all that and more here! We quickly meet the new Ray, who was stuck with the title by the media, and see how he got his powers as well as gained control of them thanks to his New Age parents and meditation. Did I mention what the Ray fought in this issue? Giant telepathic jellyfish that fly! Yeah, you read that right. The flaws of the issue lie in the last few pages setting up the next foe, they are disjointed, weird, and I had to read them twice to figure out the reveal, also the giant flying jellyfish were barely part of the issue. Minor complaints in the long run, for such a good issue. 4/5

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New Comic Reviews 12/08/11

Action Comics #4 - I am a huge HUGE Grant Morrison fan and have been loving this version of a younger more anti establishment Superman thus far. This issue is a lot of fighting as the evil alien menace that is so interested in Superman has taken over a horde of robots and a recently created cyborg thanks to Lex Luthor thinking he is smarter then everyone else (which is typically true, but there are exceptions like here). This is also the first time we see any authorative figure ask for Superman's help, even though the cops try to arrest him after he takes down a horde or robots. We also get the first appearance of Steel in the new DC52 universe who was always a personal favorite. Now with giant robots running around, Lex Luthor trying to remain in control while freaking out, Steel finally appearing, and Superman being Superman this should be a near perfect score right? Well no, this issue felt flat to me. The fight was cool but the character moments that I have loved in this series thus far just aren't there. We see Clark Kent make his first excuse to go fight evil in front of Lois Lane which was great (he yells "we should be smart and RUN" then runs off) and a few quick snippets of Lois and Jimmy interacting but it is mostly smash boom fight. Which would be fine, if it wasn't for the back up. See this issue boasts a back up featuring Steel, which originally made me excited, except the back up is the fight between Steel and the cyborg from the issue, which should happen in the middle of the issue. Instead in the actual story we see Steel arrive while saving Superman then saying "I got this" and a caption that reads "for the fight of Steel and the cyborg go read the back up" and then we continue on with the story ignoring the fight until then. It took me out of the story completely, the back up was pointless because by then you saw that he won, and what is worse is that the back up is done by a different writer and artist making it not even feel like the same story. Ugh! So taking that into account what would have been a great issue is just an average issue now. 3/5

Defenders #1 - I didn't have much anticipation for this title, especially with how disappointing Fraction's super hero work has been for the last little bit, Iron Man has turned into a mess, Thor is frustrating and illogical, and Fear Itself fell flat very quickly then refused to die. BUT this one issue makes me forget all of that! I don't care that some of the characters are acting a bit off (which may be part of the plot), I don't care that the narration switches point of views several times from an omnipresent view to Dr Strange to Hulk and on through the rest of the team. Why you ask?

Because we have a team of super heroes preparing to fight the EVIL GHOST TWIN OF THE HULK! It is described that way in the book, it is also referred to as the Hulk's very own Hulk. Also we have kung fu performed in zero g's, Silver Surfer really using the power cosmic in interesting ways, and what amounts to the most powerful team in the Marvel Universe that lives on Earth fighting what will be the weird and strange things that exist on the fringes of the super hero community. I am sold after this one issue. It is like Nextwave came back but had slightly more recognizable faces. If you want a fun read, if you want an interesting take on the Marvel Universe, if you want to see who the Incredible Hulk goes to when he needs help, and if you want to see someone finally put some clothes on the Silver Surfer, go read this already! 5/5

X-23 #18 - This takes the set up from the last issue, and more importantly the FUN of last issue and just ran with it. It starts off with X along with the children of the Fantastic Four Franklin and Val flying over New York on a DRAGON and just keeps moving from there. We get another dimension/world, some awesomeness from X (especially while dealing with said dragon) and Hellion and a character making an appearance who I haven't seen since Erik Larsen had a brief stint on Wolverine. Honestly, my only complaint with the issue is Marvel is cancelling the book, but don't let that stop you, pick it up and enjoy the ride, and however many issues are left (I believe two). Who knows, maybe they will change their minds? It worked for Spider-Girl.... 5/5