Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review: Star Wars #1

Star Wars #1 by Brian Wood, Carlos D’anda, and Gabe Eltaeb

The Rebel Alliance has scored a victory against the Empire but they’re still outnumbered and on the run. Desperate for a new place to put a base, the Rebels scour the system for any place that will be hospitable or inhabitable which isn’t easy with the Empire’s superior numbers combing the galaxy for them. When Leia, Luke, and Wedge are ambushed while searching for a place to put a base, Mon Mothma senses a spy and gives Leia a black ops command whose mission is simple: Find a new home for a base or find the spy.

GOOD: This story is set right after the destruction of the first Death Star. The characters are pretty well written (some moments feel wrong or a little manufactured but in the actual movies the characters acted a bit off from film to film). Still, the interactions between the characters makes me imagine that it really happened and setting it after the first film makes it feel like cannon. When Princess Leia blasts a Tie Fighter pilot then blasts him two more times when he’s down it shows a different side of her. She was always tough in the movies and willing to shoot back but she assassinated the pilot without saying a word – no asking for surrender, no words of anger – it’s a ruthlessness that makes sense for the character but is shocking to see on the page.

And D’anda’s rendering of Darth Vader is about the most badass rendering everywhere. There’s a panel where he’s striding toward the reader and his head is down a bit so it looks like the eyes are glaring more than usual. You can see the bulk in his arms and legs that tell you that even if he didn’t have a lightsaber, he’d choke you out MMA-style.

The yellow narration boxes serve to remind you (as if you’ve forgotten) what the Rebels are up against and what the characters are feeling. Long gone is the day of thought bubbles so the narration is a great way to add context to what’s going on and information on what the current mission is.

I don’t know if anyone caught it, but on the first page Luke holds up three fingers and Leia, understanding what he’s asking, switches to communication channel 3 letting the reader know that they’re involved in a private conversation. It’s an excellent little detail and one that Wood uses brilliantly.

BAD: This is a case of good news / bad news. The good news is that Dark Horse Comics has done it again with a fantastic new title. The bad news is that since Disney owns Star Wars and Marvel Comics, they can hand the property back over to Marvel Comics.

CONCLUSION: Like I said, Dark Horse Comics has done it again. Welcome back, Original Cast! You have been missed. Now if we can get new action figures…

Monday, January 21, 2013

Quick Reviews: The Superior Spider-Man #1, Avenging Spider-Man #16, and Daredevil #22

The Superior Spider-Man #1 by Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman, and Edgar Delgado

Dan Slott is the most hated comic book creator on the Internet. Amazing Spider-Man #700 marked the death of Peter Parker as Doctor Octopus took over his life. And while this change isn’t permanent, it is interesting. And as we learn by the end of the first issue, a part Peter Parker lives on, tempering the actions of this new Superior Spider-Man.

The title is Superior Spider-Man because Otto’s convinced he can be a better hero then Peter Parker ever was. As far as Otto was concerned, he’s the perfect amalgamation of brilliance with all of Peter Parker’s abilities, resources, and youth. But Otto is still Otto, an arrogant, selfish, and self-involved maniac. The few things he does that are out of character for him in this issue turn out to be Peter Parker’s influence.

Maybe Otto’s journey will be a little more subtle, a little more slow getting there. It’s not unreasonable as Dan Slott has already spent a few years on the Spider-Man title. Chances are if Marvel took this kind of chancing killing off Peter Parker that there are some long-term benefit in the form of a big story arc pay off. Dan Slott and Marvel probably already know how they’re going to bring Peter Parker back. And chances are Peter Parker will be back right around the time the next Amazing Spider-Man movie is released.

The courting of Mary Jane really creeps me out. If they sleep together thinking that he’s Peter Parker would net be some form of rape? Otto is a jerk who is treating everyone in Peter Parker circle badly – which will be part of the fun of Peter Parker coming back seeing him repair these relationships. But the Mary Jane thing really creeps me out. And I find it hard to believe that she doesn’t feel the personality shift – she’s been with Peter when he’s been replaced taken over or under the influence of something. For that matter it seems like his entire supporting cast thinks his new attitude is okay. But that bothered me back in Amazing Spider-Man #698 when he was surrounded by the Avengers and seem glib about Otto dying.

Avenging Spider-Man #16 by Christopher Yost, Paco Medina, and Juan Vlasco

Despite my misgivings about the Superior title, I thought this story was pretty good. I love a good team up and Christopher Yost doesn’t disappoint. For that matter, neither does the art team. When a rampaging giant spider threatens New York City, it’s Spider-Man to the rescue. But when the X-Men get involved, Wolverine smells of body switch (and Wolverine has plenty of experience in being mind controlled).

Wolverine’s always been a jerk to Peter so when Otto decides to hand him his ass, it’s hilarious. But when Wolverine seems to get the upper hand and tells Rachel Grey, a skilled telepath, to scan him, Otto explains his actions: “you can’t tell me you’ve never thought about beating up Wolverine.” The team agrees and Otto is spared a brain scan and is able to maintain his cover.

Daredevil #22 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Daredevil (who is very familiar with being possessed) encounters the new Superior Spider-Man. And while Spider-Man’s behavior seems odd to him, especially because he’s forcing a fight between the two of them, his heartbeat, sent, and footfall all read normal. So the pair team up to take on an improved Stilt-Man who is using Otto’s tentacles for his arms.

Mark Waid puts the new Spider-Man through some paces but I don’t know why he was sent to catch Daredevil - that part wasn’t really clear and I’ve read all the recent titles. I also don’t know about the fight with Foggy so the pair of them making up didn’t have any impact on me. For a title is critically acclaimed as Daredevil, they should have a better artist on the title – Samnee’s artwork is better suited to an independent title than a mainstream one.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My favorite things in 2012

As I begin a new year I want to take a quick look back at some of the things I enjoyed last year.



Chase’s psychic connection to Old Lace is active but the team saw her die. The Runaways’ search for Old Lace takes them to Avengers Academy and to another dimension. But if Henry Pym and Tigra have their way, the juveniles of the group will be taken away to be raised somewhere safe.

While the story might first appear pretty standard, when Henry and Tigra argue with the team about taking Molly & Klara away, Reptil suggests Nico use magic to make everyone there understand everyone else’s point of view. This leads to the last 10 pages of #28 packing a lot of emotional impact and giving each team a deep connection one another. And I love that Old Lace is back – she’s all Chase had to remember Gertrude by. It’s a great story and one all Runaways fans should read.


I’m a huge fan of the series. The library editions are a great way to reread the series.


Another great year for the series which keeps me guessing, entertained, and very, very happy.


From Tim Seeley & Mike Norton, Revival is one of Image’s best new books. It's about a small town, Rothschild, Wisconsin, where the dead come back to life - but not as zombies - as normal people. The town is sealed off by the government and the CDC is testing human and 'reviver' alike for an answer. The government suspects that some of the townspeople are carrying something in them that will let them come back to life. That sounds good on paper but their fear is that people won't die and that will lead to overcrowding and sparse resources. It might be as good as Tim Seeley’s other title, Hack / Slash - we’ll see.


Cyclops, Emma Frost, and Magneto are wanted by the government and gathering new mutants. The X-Men are faced with increased government scrutiny but can’t go after them for fear of creating a mutant civil war. Beast decides to bring the original team back through time to talk sense into Scott. The original team’s arrival rips open old wounds while exposing the original team to a future they were working hard to prevent.

No one but Brian Michael Bendis could have told this story and it’s the only thing I read more eagerly than Buffy Season 9 and Angel & Faith. Having the original X-Men in the current title doesn’t just challenge those characters but, as a reader, it forced me to think about everything the characters have been through. The chaos is entertaining and bittersweet to watch. It’s easily one of the best titles Marvel has put out in years.


Avengers Assemble is one of Marvel’s best books on the stands. It’s a fun, simple book that doesn’t get weighed down by continuity (mostly because it seems to ignore it). The writers have found a way to use the movie version of the team’s lineup without making it seem like a movie tie-in.


On Earth 2, Darkseid is about to conquer when Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman make one last ditch effort to turn the tide. It will require a large fight, an uploaded virus, and the sacrifice of all three of Earth's greatest heroes. But from their ashes, a new superhero group will rise up to protect the Earth - The Justice Society.

James Robinson is one of the most underrated writers in comics. His books are consistently fantastic and he's the definitive Justice Society writer (or at least the one I'm most familiar with having read his run). Nicola Scott's art is equally fantastic and the fight scenes look gorgeous.


Power Girl and Huntress were Earth 2's Supergirl and Robin. But when they become stranded on our world, they carve out a place for themselves which include new identities.

This is easily one of my favorite reboots. Both characters are comparable to their original DCU counterparts but their back stories now include each other. In the original DCU, Power Girl was essentially alone but now she has Huntress. I like the idea that Power Girl and Huntress know all these secret identities of friends they fought alongside but the heroes don't know them. It gives them an advantage and we may get to see a hero differently through their eyes as they reflect on who that hero was on Earth 2. And I especially love that Huntress is Bruce Wayne's daughter on Earth 2.


Smallville Season Eleven is a welcome addition to the 'season-style' books out there. Fans of the cult show had to wait for 10 years for 'Smallville' to become Superman and only got a tiny taste of how great that could be. And in this first year, the comic book did what the series couldn’t (because of licensing issues): introduce Superman to Batman. The Smallville version of Batman was awesome and he’ll hopefully return soon.


Skeletor has won, and as punishment he’s stripped all the Masters of the Universe of their memories and given them new, menial lives. But Adam, now a simple woodsman, will awaken from a dream with a need to leave that life behind. Skeletor has put the word out to all of Adam’s enemies. But with remnants of his skills and help from Teela, Adam may live to reclaim his destiny.

James Robinson and Philip Tan are doing amazing work on the title. I never thought I’d enjoy a He-Man title where He-Man doesn’t even appear until the fifth issue.


This title has been fun, fun, fun. A GI Joe crossover hasn’t been this much fun since the old GI Joe / Transformers crossovers.


X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Bloodshot, Archer & Armstrong, and Shadow Man came out this year to kickoff the official relaunch of Valiant Comics. The first five titles started strong and I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings.


When he’s not fighting Ultron, Thanos, or (lately) the X-Men, he’s hanging out with his neighbors and standing up for them when his landlord triples the rent on them. I was definitely interested in a fresh take on the character and Matt Fraction delivers. And we get to see that he’s just as dangerous with a playing card or a coin as he is with his bow. It’s completely worth checking out if you haven’t already.



The best movie of the year is also the best comic book movie ever. Joss Whedon has done it again and, because of his exclusive contract, is set to do it again in 2015 for Avengers 2.


I did something I’ve never done before – I went to a screening of the Batman Trilogy which included seeing the first two films before seeing the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. I went with three friends to see it and we’d all been up since early morning (5:45am for me), went to work or school, and were determined to stay up until 3am the following morning – and we all made it. And it was a blast. It was a great ending to the trilogy.


Disney does it again. I had such a good time watching this film and the action figures weren’t bad either.


The film that took forever to come out finally got released and kicked ass at the box office. A fun, funny, and scary horror movie that manages to be genuinely unique.


I have to admit when I saw the movie I thought it was okay. But all of the excitement surrounding it suggested that I really needed to read the books. I’m on the third book right now (don’t tell me how it ends) and I’m glad I gave it a shot. I’m now a huge Hunger Games fan.


Dwayne McDuffie's final script is an adaptation of the story line he wrote for the comic books. Nathan Fillion (Green Lantern) and Tim Daly (Superman) join a reunion of voice actors who provided the voices of the Justice League for the cartoon of the same name. Dwayne McDuffie is a legend and I’m proud to have the original comic book stories in my collection as well is the blu-ray of this movie. And there’s a great feature on the blu-ray of creators who knew Dwayne and talk about his life.



The Marvel Universe toyline released the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man and great-looking Kraven the Hunter and Beast figures. We also got the obscure but awesome Bag Head Spider-Man figure too. Toys R Us had the exclusive X-Force pack which finally gave us Angel and the Comic Con exclusive Masters of Evil pack featured 3 new figures that I didn’t have.


2012 was supposed to be the year GI Joe: Retaliation was released in movie theaters. But when the film got pushed back, so did the action figures. Still, a few figures did trickle out and I have The Rock as Roadblock.

Comic-Con gave me Jinx and it gave me the best GI Joe toy this year: a HISS tank decorated like Shockwave from the Transformers. Big Bad Toy Shop had the awesome Slaughter's Marauders Battle Set and Dreadnoks Battle Sets.

The GI Joe Collector’s Club started it subscription service and before the end of the year I received the first two figures from that service: Jinx and Dice. I hope they do a subscription service like this every year.


The Justice League (We All Can Be Heroes) box set was not just affordable (at $100 for all 7 figures) it was also some of the best looking figures.


There were a lot of celebrity vehicles this year but the standout for me was the Mystery Machine. With an incredible amount of celebrity vehicles about to be released by Hot Wheels in 2013, there’s a lot to look forward to.


Although the 3 ¾” figures sucked, the Hines Ward action figure from The Dark Knight Rises was amazing. Sculpted by the amazing staff at McFarlane Toys, this figure ran off shelves faster than even Hines Ward could.


I own both Batman and Catwoman 2–packs in the figures are detailed and amazing looking.


I don’t know if these actually came out in 2012, but that’s when I discovered them and that’s when I got them. If you haven’t you have the opportunity to go to Disneyland or Disney World, try to pick them up.


The Vintage Millennium Falcon is a Toys “R” Us exclusive and isn't just my favorite spaceship of all time, it's also something I had as a kid (the smaller version). Still, I regretted not getting the Legacy version the first time around so I was determined not to miss out on this.),



With Jane Espenson at the helm, it’s little wonder why this critically acclaimed show is my favorite show on television right now. This fantastic blending of fantasy and drama that ties into all of the fairy tales we grew up with is intelligent, well acted, and unpredictable.


Funny and smart, this comedy keeps me laughing. And now that the girls have a cupcake shop we get to witness all the ups and downs of owning it for the girls and how much they’ll struggle to keep the doors open.


Two of my favorite long-term comedies continue to relentlessly bring the funny.


I always look forward to this on weekends and this year was no different. SNL has always been hit-and-miss each episode but there are really great, funny moments. In my opinion there haven’t been any bad seasons of the show for at least a decade.


While I didn’t initially enjoy the first episode it is gotten a lot better. I like the flashbacks to the island and I really like the introduction of Huntress. I’m interested to see how the season ends.



Quantum Mechanix has been releasing maquettes in its “Little Damn Heroes” collection based on the characters so it was a huge surprise when they offered the starship Serenity. It is such a cool piece and a welcome addition to my “Little Damn Heroes” collection. Hopefully 2013 will see the rest of the characters finally get their maquette (Simon and Zoe).


This year I got to participate in two record-breaking comic book projects. Cyber Force Returns was the #1 most funded comic book project until Leaving Megalopolis beaded a month later. I also got to participate in Michael Dougherty’s Z*Con film (him and his team were behind the Browncoats: Redemption fan film).

I also got to support a lot of great web series like Husbands Season 2, Jedi Camp, Pink Five, and the BAMF Girls Club. And I supported a lot of cool films like Sunday Punch, Hotel Noir, King of Arcades, Eliza Dushku’s untitled Albania documentary, and Best Friends Forever.


George Lucas was not going to make any more Star Wars films but I wasn’t ready to never see a Star Wars film again. Enter Disney to purchase Lucasfilm guaranteeing new movies and a great retirement for the man who gave us Star Wars in the first place.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

“Back in the Day” review: Uncanny X-men #167

Uncanny X-men #167 (March 1983)

The X-Men have been lost in space for months (the entire saga was about 10 issues long) fighting the Brood. Presumed dead, Charles Xavier recruited a new team, The New Mutants. Having survived all the Brood had to dish out they discover one more embryo may be in play and that Professor Xavier could be its host. So the X-Men return to earth with a vengeance, desperately trying to get to Professor Xavier before it’s too late. After a short battle with The New Mutants, they discover they are too late – Professor Xavier is a Brood Queen.

I am a huge New Mutants fan and when this issue came out, I was excited. Finally the New Mutants and the X-Men meet. And, of course, they fight. Unlike most first superhero battles over a misunderstanding, the X-Men realize that the New Mutants aren’t the enemy but they don’t have time to explain. While the two teams mix it up below, Kitty tries to get close enough to zap Professor X with a blaster she's carrying but hesitates when she sees him looking normal and asleep. But she comes to regret that decision immediately - the Brood Queen is already in control.

Then the X-Men and New Mutants watch as Professor X makes the metamorphosis from human to Brood. The X-Men manage to bring the queen down but Cyclops and Wolverine argue over what to do with it. Wolverine's solution: kill it. The irony of course is that 30 years later, Cyclops will kill Professor X during the "Avengers vs X-Men" series and it will be Wolverine who looks down on him for killing. Actually, I don't know if that's irony...it may just be weird.

With the Starjammer in orbit, the X-Men and New Mutants are all brought up to await news about Professor X's condition. They can't reverse the metamorphosis but they do have a genetic sample so they're able to clone a new body for him and drop his consciousness into it. So Professor X not only survives being turned into a Brood, but gets a new body that can walk!

Chris Claremont wraps up the Brood storyline with a lot of twists, turns, and payoffs. In one issue we get the X-Men’s return to earth, the first time the team meets the New Mutants, Professor Xavier transformed into a Brood Queen, and his consciousness being transferred into a cloned body…that can walk.

Paul Smith’s art is as clean and beautiful as I remember it. Each of the characters has their own unique look and, thanks to Claremont, unique voice, something that currently gets lost when month after month there are several writers putting their own stamp on each character. When this issue came out, Wolverine was only appearing once a month but now he’s a regular in three or more. This issue shows the team strong and in action but also shows some of their weaknesses: Nightcrawler fears that the New Mutants will not accept him and Storm feels replaced by Kitty's affection for Peter and Illyana. It also shows great character moments between Scott and his father.

There's also a nice moment when Gladiator shows up to deliver the news that Galactus was dying and the Fantastic Four saved him and how angry she is. She delivers a hologram message to the team in the middle of the night to tell them that they just saved an entity that destroys entire worlds just to sustain itself, to remind them that they aren't the only people in the galaxy, and to brand them as criminals. It reminds you that the Marvel Universe has a lot going on in it without going overboard with confrontations. That practice of checking in on other heroes in other titles continues today and maintains the illusion of a cohesive universe.

At the end of the book, with everyone safe and the X-Men and the New Mutants under one roof, Professor X decides Kitty should be on a team with members closer to her age and makes her a New Mutant. Of course this leads to one the best in-jokes: Professor X is a jerk!

My only complaint, reading this issues after all these years, is how slow Wolverine is getting up the stairs. He's starting up the stairs when Sunspot jumps at him and is swatted away. Then there's enough time for Wolverine to stand there while Sunspot composes himself and jumps on his back. Chris Claremont is a great writer but he doesn't let anything interfere with a good setup. Still, it's one of my favorite X-Men issues.

The X-Men bust into the mansion while The New Mutants are enjoying a little downtime.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Marvel NOW review: Indestructible Hulk #1-2, Thor: God of Thunder #1-2, Uncanny Avengers #1-2, X-Men Legacy #1-2

Indestructible Hulk #1-2 by Mark Waid & Leinil Yu

Bruce Banner has had an epiphany: There is no cure for the Hulk. Bruce, one of the scientific geniuses of the Marvel Universe, decides that he’s wasted enough time with cures, running, and struggling to suppress the Hulk and approaches, Maria Hill with a proposition. In exchange for a laboratory and staff with generous resources, he will deliver inventions that will benefit the world and SHEILD gets to point the Hulk at things that need smashing.

GOOD: Mark Waid is one of the best writers in comics. He has a way of boiling a character down to its essence and crafting simple stories that allow the reader to get involved in the story and get to know the character all over again. He’s doing that over on Daredevil, showing us a Matthew Murdock who has refocused his life on defending the law, being a superhero, and embracing a little bit of joy. Mark has remade Bruce Banner into a confident man who is more at ease with his dual identity and focused on how his genius can benefit the world. This is an interesting Bruce, a Bruce that is likeable and the readers can relate to better. Bruce working for SHIELD is a good idea – with all really great ideas, you wonder how no other writer thought of this slant.

Leinil Yu’s art is beautiful to look at whether Bruce is talking to Maria Hill or the Hulk is beating on Iron Man.

BAD: The ‘sibling rivalry’ with Tony in #2 was a little dumb. I liked how it was resolved but ultimately hated that it was Bruce’s plan to put Tony in a position to irritate him enough to let off steam. It’s the Hulk so even though it’s starting out strong, Marvel will want Hulk soon for some crossover or other and then the writer will have to adjust or Marvel will get another writer. Hulk is only really interesting a year or two at a time.

I don’t understand – if Avengers Assemble is part of continuity and Hulk is already on that team, then why is Tony so shocked that Bruce is working for SHEILD? And if Hulk is actively an Avenger, why does Maria Hill need to look for him?

IN CONCLUSION: A pretty good start. Like Daredevil, Mark Waid has made this character likable and given him a simple, engaging purpose without skimping on the action. I’ll enjoy this title while it lasts with Mark Waid as writer.

Thor: God of Thunder #1-2 by Jason Aaron, Esad Ribic, and Dean White

Thor’s past, present, and future are threatened by a God who kills other Gods.

GOOD: A God who kills other Gods is a great idea and well executed. The fact that it takes Thor several hours to dispatch one servant of that God is incredible and sells the very real threat that the God-killer poses. We also get to see the Thor from over a thousand years ago, back when he yearned to wield the hammer but wasn’t yet worthy.

BAD: Thor isn’t a very interesting character to me and he fails to dazzle here. If you’re a Thor fan, I think this is a really nicely done story. But the fact that the story shows Thor in the future making a last stand as the last Asgardian in Asgard undercuts the danger of being killed by the God-killer in Thor’s present story.

IN CONCLUSION: Jason Aaron is one of the best writers in comics today and I really enjoyed what he did on Ghost Rider and some of the stuff he did on Wolverine. But I’m not a Thor fan and my mind hasn’t changed.

Uncanny Avengers #1-2 by Rick Remender & John Cassaday

In the shadow of Professor Charles Xavier’s funeral, the Red Skull (isn’t he dead?) unleashes a lobotomized Avalanche against the city. Alex Summer’s brother, Scott is imprisoned for Xavier’s death, and he’s about to join the Avengers at Captain America’s request. With public sentiment decidedly more anti-mutant than normal, it’s going to take a lot of work to reverse public opinion. Of course the Red Skull getting a hold of Xavier’s brain and gaining his incredible powers isn’t going to help.

GOOD: Red Skull is as threatening and as scary as I’ve ever seen him - the thought of him wielding Xavier’s power amps up the threat in my mind. Seeing Alex lead a team of Avengers isn’t something I’ve seen before and you can see how stiff he is in the role. Also, Rogue and Wanda’s discovery of Xavier’s body is one of the most gut-wrenching scenes in recent memory and Rogue’s flashback to Xavier sticking up for her when she came to the X-Men after being one of their most vicious villains will tear your heart out.

BAD: Fear Itself established that Red Skull was dead. I didn’t know he was dead but Fear Itself wasn’t that long ago. I hated Fear Itself so I can probably ignore the Red Skull’s recent resurrection. Chances are I wouldn’t care how he came back to life. Death is temporary in the Marvel Universe, though I don’t know how Professor X is resurrected after being dissected and having his brain removed.

IN CONCLUSION: It’s a great beginning to the series. The stakes are high, the emotions are raw, and if you don’t want to cry at the end of #2, this might not be the title for you. Rick Remender does a great job of capitalizing on all of the changes in the character’s status quo without beating it into the ground. John Cassaday, in addition to the action scenes, does a great job of showing the aftermath of Avalanche’s attack as well as the emotion on the character’s faces.

X-Men Legacy #1-2 by Simon Spurrier and Ten Eng Huat

Legion has learned to deal with his personalities until one breaks out and he’s forced to fight for his sanity.

GOOD: Legion imprisoning the personalities in his psyche and even gaining control over them is an interesting idea.

BAD: It’s a title starring Legion…who’s about as interesting as grass growing.

IN CONCLUSION: I’m not sure why you green-light a title about a guy who doesn’t have many fans and who has only popped up once every five years or so. I won’t be back for #3.